Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) doesn’t always appear immediately after a traumatic event. New research has found that it can take up to two years or longer following a traumatic event before symptoms of PTSD surface.
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 post-traumatic stress disorder (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.”
Co-authored by Kent State University social psychologist Richard E. Adams, Ph.D., the study was based on interviews of several thousand New York City residents after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
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.
The research also found that 4 percent of those surveyed had delayed onset of PTSD and that women were more likely to experience PTSD than men. A diagnosis of depression before the event was also found to be a significant risk factor for a later PTSD diagnosis.
The study appears in the electronic edition of the research journal Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology.
Source: Geisinger Health System