JOURNAL ARTICLE

Mental health treatment received by primary care patients with posttraumatic stress disorder

Benjamin F Rodriguez, Risa B Weisberg, Maria E Pagano, Jason T Machan, Larry Culpepper, Martin B Keller
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2003, 64 (10): 1230-6
14658973

BACKGROUND: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is receiving growing attention as a pervasive and impairing disorder but is still undertreated. Our purpose was to describe the characteristics of mental health treatment received by primary care patients diagnosed with PTSD.

METHOD: 4383 patients from 15 primary care, family practice, or internal medicine clinics were screened for anxiety symptoms using a self-report questionnaire developed for the study. Those found positive for anxiety symptoms (N = 539) were interviewed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. Of these patients, 197 met diagnostic criteria for PTSD and were examined in the present study regarding the rates and types of mental health treatment they were currently receiving. Data were gathered from July 1997 to May 2001.

RESULTS: Nearly half (48%) of the patients in general medical practice with PTSD were receiving no mental health treatment at the time of intake to the study. Of those receiving treatment, psychopharmacologic interventions were most common. Few patients were receiving empirically supported psychosocial interventions. Current comorbid major depressive disorder and current comorbid panic disorder with agoraphobia were significantly associated with receiving mental health treatment (major depressive disorder, p <.10; panic disorder with agoraphobia, p <.05). The most common reason patients gave for not receiving medication was the failure of physicians to recommend such treatment, which was also among the most common reasons for not receiving psychosocial treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite the morbidity, psychosocial impairment, and distress associated with PTSD, substantial proportions of primary care patients with the disorder are going untreated or are receiving inadequate treatment. Results suggest a need for better identification and treatment of PTSD in the primary care setting.

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