The British Journal of Psychiatry
Delayed-onset post-traumatic stress disorder among war veterans in primary care clinics
B. Christopher Frueh, Anouk L. Grubaugh, Derik E. Yeager, Kathryn M. Magruder

Abstract

Background

Only limited empirical data support the existence of delayed-onset post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Aims

To expand our understanding of delayed-onset PTSD prevalence and phenomenology.

Method

A cross-sectional, epidemiological design (n = 747) incorporating structured interviews to obtain relevant information for analyses in a multisite study of military veterans.

Results

A small percentage of veterans with identified current PTSD (8.3%, 7/84), current subthreshold PTSD (6.9%, 2/29), and lifetime PTSD only (5.4%, 2/37) met criteria for delayed onset with PTSD symptoms initiating more than 6 months after the index trauma. Altogether only 0.4% (3/747) of the entire sample had current PTSD with delayed-onset symptoms developing more than 1 year after trauma exposure, and no PTSD symptom onset was reported more than 6 years post-trauma.

Conclusions

Retrospective reports of veterans reveal that delayed-onset PTSD (current, subthreshold or lifetime) is extremely rare 1 year post-trauma, and there was no evidence of PTSD symptom onset 6 or more years after trauma exposure.

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