Complex posttraumatic stress disorder: evidence from the primary care setting
Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
Adult; Analysis of Variance; Chi-Square Distribution; Child; Child Abuse, Sexual; Cluster Analysis; Depression; Dissociative Disorders; Family Health; Female; Humans; Middle Aged; Primary Health Care; Retrospective Studies; Somatoform Disorders; *Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic; Survivors; Syndrome; Women's Health
Community Health | Other Medical Specialties | Preventative Medicine
Sexual abuse is a common problem among female primary care medical patients. There is a wide spectrum of long-term sequelae, ranging from mild to the complex symptom profiles consistent with the theories of a posttraumatic sense of identity. Generally, the latter occurs in the context of severe, chronic abuse, beginning in childhood and often compounded by the presence of violence, criminal behavior, and substance abuse in the family of origin. In this study we search for empirical evidence for the existence of a complex posttraumatic stress syndrome in 99 women patients at 3 family practice outpatient clinics who report a history of sexual abuse. A structured interview was administered by trained female interviewers to gather data on family history and psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses. Empirical evidence from cluster analysis of the data supports the theory of a complex posttraumatic syndrome. The severity gradient based on symptoms roughly parallels the severity gradient based on childhood abuse and sociopathic behavior and violence in the family of origin, with the most severely abused subjects characterized by symptom patterns that fit the description of a complex posttraumatic stress syndrome.
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Citation: Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1998 Jul;20(4):214-24. Link to article on publisher's website