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Post-traumatic stress disorder

Creamer, Mark; O'Donnell, Meaghan

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: March 2002 - Volume 15 - Issue 2 - p 163-168
Personality disorders and neuroses

This paper provides an overview of recent developments in the literature on post-traumatic stress disorder. Epidemiological studies indicate that approximately 15-25% of individuals experiencing a significant trauma will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, although approximately half will recover without formal intervention. Potential vulnerability factors for post-traumatic stress disorder have been identified, but the mechanisms and complexities require further exploration, with recent research suggesting that prevalence rates and risk factors may differ across populations. Studies of psychological treatment have demonstrated prolonged exposure and cognitive therapies to be equally beneficial, whereas eye movement desensitization and reprocessing may be useful but perhaps less effective in the long term. Pharmacological treatment studies indicate that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be the first choice of drug treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. Non-selective primary prevention strategies remain contentious, although secondary prevention, in the form of cognitive behavioural interventions for acutely symptomatic survivors, appears to reduce the subsequent development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, West Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia and University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Correspondence to Mark Creamer, PhD, Director, Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, Locked Bag 1, West Heidelberg, Victoria 3081, Australia. Tel: +61 3 9496 4329; fax: +61 3 9496 2830; e-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.