Functional significance of a novel 7-factor model of DSM-5 PTSD symptoms: results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans study

Robert H Pietrzak, Jack Tsai, Cherie Armour, Natalie Mota, Ilan Harpaz-Rotem, Steven M Southwick
Journal of Affective Disorders 2015 March 15, 174: 522-6

BACKGROUND: While posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in the recently published Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) are clustered into four factors, emerging confirmatory factor analytic studies suggest that this disorder is best characterized by seven symptom clusters, including re-experiencing, avoidance, negative affect, anhedonia, externalizing behaviors, and anxious and dysphoric arousal symptoms. To date, however, data are lacking regarding the relation between this novel model of DSM-5 PTSD symptoms and measures of clinical significance in this population (e.g., functioning).

METHODS: Using data from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (NHRVS), a contemporary, nationally representative sample of 1484 U.S. veterans, we evaluated clinical and functional correlates of a novel 7-factor model of DSM-5 PTSD symptoms.

RESULTS: Differential patterns of associations were observed between DSM-5 PTSD symptom clusters, and psychiatric comorbidities, suicidal ideation, hostility, and functioning and quality of life. Anhedonia symptoms, in particular, were strongly related to current depression, as well as reduced mental functioning and quality of life. Externalizing behaviors were most strongly related to hostility, supporting the convergent validity of this construct.

LIMITATIONS: Cross-sectional design and employment of self-report measures.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that a more refined 7-factor model of DSM-5 PTSD symptoms may provide greater specificity in understanding associations with comorbid psychopathology, suicidal ideation, and functioning and quality of life in U.S. veterans. They further suggest that prevention and treatment efforts that target distinct aspects of the PTSD phenotype may be more effective in mitigating key clinical and functional outcomes in this population.

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