Evidence of symptom profiles consistent with posttraumatic stress disorder and complex posttraumatic stress disorder in different trauma samples

Ask Elklit, Philip Hyland, Mark Shevlin
European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2014, 5

BACKGROUND: The International Classification of Diseases, 11th version (ICD-11), proposes two related stress and trauma-related disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (CPTSD). A diagnosis of CPTSD requires that in addition to the PTSD symptoms, an individual must also endorse symptoms in three major domains: (1) affective dysregulation, (2) negative self-concepts, and (3) interpersonal problems. This study aimed to determine if the naturally occurring distribution of symptoms in three groups of traumatised individuals (bereavement, sexual victimisation, and physical assault) were consistent with the ICD-11, PTSD, and CPTSD specification. The study also investigated whether these groups differed on a range of other psychological problems.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Participants completed self-report measures of each symptom group and latent class analyses consistently found that a three class solution was best. The classes were "PTSD only," "CPTSD," and "low PTSD/CPTSD." These classes differed significantly on measures of depression, anxiety, dissociation, sleep disturbances, somatisation, interpersonal sensitivity, and aggression. The "CPTSD" class in the three samples scored highest on all the variables, with the "PTSD only" class scoring lower and the "low PTSD/CPTSD" class the lowest.

CONCLUSION: This study provides evidence to support the diagnostic structure of CPTSD and indicted that CPTSD is associated with a broad range of other psychological problems.

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