PTSD Can Surface up to 2 Years after Trauma

Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology: 2009

While a person may not seem emotionally or psychologically troubled in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can surface up to two years following an event for those with pre-existing emotional or social problems.

That is the main conclusion of new Geisinger-led research that examined the onset and development of PTSD.

Researchers have long-believed that signs of PTSD occur shortly after a traumatic event.

Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, sleeping and memory problems, and unexplained family or work difficulties.

Yet the new research by Geisinger Center for Health Research senior investigator Joseph Dr. Boscarino, Ph.D., finds that some people can experience PTSD up to two years after the original trauma.

The findings have long-term implications for today's returning military veterans, Dr. Boscarino said.

"More than 5 million members of the military have served in the Persian Gulf conflicts," Dr. Boscarino said.

"This country needs to be prepared to deal with veterans who could be experiencing war-related mental health stress years after combat."

The study found that people with delayed PTSD onset were more likely to have lower self-esteem, have experienced previous negative life events and suffered past traumas.

"PTSD onset ... is complex and appears to be related to exposure, individual predispositions, and external factors not directly related to the original traumatic event," the authors wrote.

Some of the key findings:
• Women were more likely to experience PTSD than men
• Having depression before the event was also a significant risk factor for PTSD

NOTE: Another reason for careful pre employment psychological screening and another reason to keep an eye out for behavioral changes in public safety personnel who have been involved in traumatic incidents SSC

PolicePsych is a trademark of Susan Saxe-Clifford, Ph.D.,ABPP, APC. Copyright 2015
[Susan Saxe-Clifford, Ph.D. APC]. All rights reserved.