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Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) has been proposed as a diagnosis for capturing the diverse clusters of symptoms observed in survivors of prolonged trauma that are outside the current definition of PTSD. Introducing a new diagnosis requires a high standard of evidence, including a clear definition of the disorder, reliable and valid assessment measures, support for convergent and discriminant validity, and incremental validity with respect to implications for treatment planning and outcome. In this article, the extant literature on CPTSD is reviewed within the framework of construct validity to evaluate the proposed diagnosis on these criteria. Although the efforts in support of CPTSD have brought much needed attention to limitations in the trauma literature, we conclude that available evidence does not support a new diagnostic category at this time. Some directions for future research are suggested.
Journal of Traumatic Stress
June 2012, 25, 241–251
CE Article
A Critical Evaluation of the Complex PTSD Literature:
Implications for DSM-5
Patricia A. Resick,1,2 Michelle J. Bovin,1Amber L. Calloway,1Alexandra M. Dick,1
Matthew W. King,1Karen S. Mitchell,1,2 Michael K. Suvak,1,3 Stephanie Y. Wells,1
Shannon Wiltsey Stirman,1,2 and Erika J. Wolf1,2
1National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
2Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
3Department of Psychology, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) has been proposed as a diagnosis for capturing the diverse clusters of symptoms observed
in survivors of prolonged trauma that are outside the current definition of PTSD. Introducing a new diagnosis requires a high standard
of evidence, including a clear definition of the disorder, reliable and valid assessment measures, support for convergent and discriminant
validity, and incremental validity with respect to implications for treatment planning and outcome. In this article, the extant literature on
CPTSD is reviewed within the framework of construct validity to evaluate the proposed diagnosis on these criteria. Although the efforts
in support of CPTSD have brought much needed attention to limitations in the trauma literature, we conclude that available evidence does
not support a new diagnostic category at this time. Some directions for future research are suggested.
Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) was first
proposed by Herman (1992a) to describe a syndrome observed
in survivors of prolonged, repeated trauma. Herman wrote, “the
diagnosis of post-traumatic [sic] stress disorder, as it is presently
defined, does not fit accurately enough. The existing diagnos-
tic criteria for this disorder are derived mainly from survivors
of circumscribed traumatic events. They are based on the pro-
totypes of combat, disaster, and rape” (p. 119). The new di-
agnosis comprised symptom clusters reflecting alterations in
affect regulation, consciousness, self-perception, perception of
the perpetrator, relations with others, and systems of mean-
ing. Following this proposal, the posttraumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) field trial for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; DSM-IV; American Psychiatric
Association, 1994) tested this diagnosis as disorders of extreme
stress, not otherwise specified (DESNOS), a disorder closely
related to CPTSD.
After Patricia Resick, all authors are listed alphabetically.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Patricia A
Resick, Women’s Health Sciences Division (116B-3), National Center for
PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, 150 South Huntington Avenue, Boston,
MA 02130. E-mail:
Published 2012. This article is a US Government work and is in the public
domain in the USA. View this article online at
DOI: 10.1002/jts.21699
The findings of the field trial indicated that nearly everyone
who met criteria for DESNOS met criteria for PTSD (Roth,
Newman, Pelcovitz, van der Kolk, & Mandel, 1997). Although
the committee believed there was not sufficient evidence to
consider DESNOS as an independent diagnosis, they listed
symptoms of DESNOS as associated features of PTSD in the
DSM-IV, along with other comorbid symptoms. Subsequently,
other diagnoses have been proposed to capture the phenom-
ena that Herman (1992b) described: personality change after a
catastrophic event according to the International Classification
of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10; World Health Organiza-
tion [WHO], 1992), developmental trauma disorder (proposed
for children who experience prolonged trauma; van der Kolk,
2005), and posttraumatic personality disorder (Classen, Pain,
Field & Woods, 2006). We use the term CPTSD both for con-
sistency and because CPTSD is again proposed for inclusion in
the DSM-5.
This study examines extant research on CPTSD to consider
whether there are sufficient data to warrant adoption of a new
diagnosis. We searched PsycINFO for the terms “complex
PTSD,” “complex trauma,” “DESNOS,” “posttraumatic per-
sonality disorder,” and “personality change after a catastrophic
event.” We did not include developmental trauma disorder be-
cause we limited our review to studies of adult samples. We
employed a snowballing strategy and reviewed the citations and
reference sections of relevant manuscripts. Finally, we sought
242 Resick et al.
in-press articles from experts in the area of CPTSD. We use
the framework of construct validity (Cronbach & Meehl, 1955)
to evaluate the CPTSD conceptualization, the measures devel-
oped to assess its proposed construct, and its distinctiveness
from other disorders. Further, we evaluate extant research on
treatment for CPTSD to determine whether a different type,
sequence, or length of treatment is indicated for survivors of
prolonged trauma.
Constructs and Diagnoses
Psychiatric diagnoses are theoretical constructs developed to
help understand the co-occurrence of psychiatric symptoms
and other psychopathological processes (Borsboom, 2008). For
instance, PTSD was codified in the late 1970s to help understand
the psychopathological sequelae experienced by large numbers
of Vietnam veterans, and developed further by early research
on rape, domestic violence, and child abuse (Friedman, Resick,
& Keane, 2007).
Construct validity refers to the process of establishing the
evidentiary strength and usefulness of unobservable constructs
such as psychiatric diagnoses (Cronbach & Meehl, 1955). The
first step is “to develop a precise and detailed conception of the
target construct and its theoretical context” (Clark & Watson,
1995; p. 310), followed by a description of the construct in
terms of a set of operations that can be used to measure and de-
fine it, which includes establishing the psychometric properties
of the procedures used to measure the construct. This concep-
tualization is then investigated rigorously, what Cronbach and
Meehl described as developing a nomological network of re-
search support for the construct. This includes evaluating the
convergent and discriminant validity of the construct of inter-
est. Finally, developing construct validity for a new diagnosis
requires demonstrating incremental validity and clinical utility,
meaning it must provide something over and above already es-
tablished diagnoses in terms of knowledge about the etiology,
course, or treatment of the symptoms. Throughout this article,
we evaluate CPTSD using these criteria.
Clinical Descriptions of CPTSD
In an effort to understand the variety of symptoms, traits,
and traumas identified as characteristic of CPTSD, we searched
the literature for definitions of CPTSD and proposed related dis-
orders. We found significant variability in descriptions of the
types of traumatic events that precipitate CPTSD and in core
symptoms of the disorder.
Precipitating Traumatic Events
CPTSD was originally conceptualized as the sequela of com-
plex trauma, or trauma that is prolonged in duration and of early
life onset (Herman, 1992b). The most common exemplar is pro-
longed trauma of an interpersonal nature, particularly childhood
sexual abuse (CSA; Choi, Klein, Shin, & Lee, 2009; Jackson,
Nissenson, & Cloitre, 2010; Roth et al., 1997), or childhood
trauma and neglect more broadly (Classen et al., 2006; Dorahy
et al., 2009). The criteria for the ICD-10 diagnosis of person-
ality change following catastrophic experience also includes
the qualifier that the stressor resulting in these symptoms must
be so severe that considering personal vulnerability is unneces-
sary to explain its profound effect on personality (WHO, 1992).
Subsequently, Courtois (2004) expanded complex trauma expe-
riences to include “other types of catastrophic, deleterious, and
entrapping traumatization occurring in childhood and/or adult-
hood” (p. 412), such as ongoing war, prisoner-of-war, refugee
status, human trafficking and prostitution, and acute or chronic
illness. The unique trademark of complex trauma, however, has
also been described as a compromise in the individual’s self-
development, which occurs during a critical window of devel-
opment in childhood, when self-definition and self-regulation
are being formed (Courtois & Ford, 2009). Although prolonged
trauma has traditionally been considered necessary for the de-
velopment of CPTSD, Courtois (2004) suggested that CPTSD
may also result from a single catastrophic trauma. Variation in
descriptions of complex trauma and the proposal that a single
trauma might result in CPTSD have led to a lack of clarity
regarding how to differentiate simple and complex trauma in
some cases. Most recently, however, in a report on an expert
clinician survey of best treatment for CPTSD, complex trauma
was described as “circumstances such as childhood abuse or
genocide campaigns under which they are exposed for a sus-
tained period to repeated instances or multiple forms of trauma,”
typically of an interpersonal nature, and occurring under cir-
cumstances where escape is not possible due to physical, psy-
chological, maturational, environmental, or social constraints
(Cloitre, Petkova, Wang, & Lu, 2012).
Further research is needed to determine whether there is a
unique relationship between complex trauma and CPTSD. Al-
though one study indicated the number of traumas experienced
in childhood predicted problems with disturbed affective and
interpersonal functioning (Cloitre, Petkova, Wang, & Lu, 2012),
research has not evaluated whether complex trauma necessar-
ily (and specifically) results in CPTSD. Trauma research has
revealed that type and amount of trauma exposure can influ-
ence the development of PTSD. For instance, two large meta-
analyses of risk factors associated with the development of
PTSD documented a consistent relationship between exposure
to trauma prior to the index event and the development of PTSD
(Brewin, Andrews, & Valentine, 2000; Ozer, Best, Lipsey, &
Weiss, 2003). Findings from the National Comorbidity Study
(Kessler, Sonnega, Bromet, Hughes, & Nelson, 1995) indicated
that with regard to trauma exposure, complexity is the norm,
not the exception. Of this nationally representative sample, 61%
and 51% of males and females, respectively, reported exposure
to at least one of 12 types of trauma. Among those exposed, 64%
reported more than one trauma exposure with 20% of males and
11% of females reporting experiencing three or more traumatic
events. The PTSD rates also varied significantly as a function
of type of trauma, with rape being associated with the highest
rates of PTSD for both genders of those traumas assessed. Thus,
Journal of Traumatic Stress DOI: 10.1002/jts. Published on behalf of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
Critical Evaluation of CPTSD 243
research has clearly demonstrated that the amount and type of
trauma impacts posttraumatic adaptation, even under current
diagnostic standards. What has yet to be demonstrated is evi-
dence of a qualitatively different relationship between complex
trauma exposure as defined above and the development of a
unique symptom pattern that is best captured by an indepen-
dent diagnosis called CPTSD.
Symptoms of CPTSD include several defining criteria of PTSD
(reexperiencing, avoidance, numbing, and hyperarousal), as
well as disturbances in self-regulatory capacities that have been
grouped into five categories: emotion regulation difficulties,
disturbances in relational capacities, alterations in attention
and consciousness (e.g., dissociation), adversely affected be-
lief systems, and somatic distress or somatization (Cloitre et al.,
2011). There has been, however, variability across descriptions
of the specific symptoms proposed for each category. For ex-
ample, although almost all CPTSD definitions include some
form of affect dysregulation as a core feature, some descrip-
tions of affective symptoms were difficult to operationalize
(e.g., difficulty managing negative mood, Jackson et al., 2010;
anxiety, Herman, 1992b). Further, dissociation, memory distur-
bance (Ford, 1999; Herman, 1992b; Pelcovitz et al., 1997), and
disturbance in attention regulation or concentration (Herman,
1992b; Courtois, 2004; Margolin & Vickerman, 2007) have all
been discussed as manifestations of alterations in consciousness
in CPTSD. Descriptions of other CPTSD symptoms have been
similarly varied. Several additional proposed CPTSD symp-
toms (e.g., self-harm, hopelessness, change from previous per-
sonality, or loss of previously sustaining beliefs) do not fall in
the aforementioned symptom clusters. The lack of consistency
in symptom descriptions has created challenges in defining and
measuring CPTSD. Recent publications indicate that the field
may be moving toward consensus on the proposed core and
associated symptoms (Cloitre et al., 2011), which can facilitate
efforts to develop measures of the construct (Courtois & Ford,
Measurement of CPTSD
The Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress
Establishing the construct validity of a diagnosis requires being
able to measure the construct reliably. To date, no measure of
CPTSD specifically has been established, and only one mea-
sure, the SIDES (Pelcovitz et al., 1997; Scoboria, Ford, Lin, &
Frisman, 2008) was developed to measure DESNOS. Although
DESNOS and CPTSD are often used interchangeably, they are
not entirely synonymous: DESNOS represents symptoms not
included in the criteria for PTSD (i.e., some of the associated
features described in the DSM-IV), while definitions of CPTSD
generally include PTSD symptoms and associated features.
Lifetime and current diagnoses, as well as a total severity
score, can be obtained from the SIDES. The original 48 items
included those designed to assess regulation of affect and im-
pulses (e.g., “I find it hard to calm myself down after I become
upset and have trouble getting back on track”); attention or
consciousness (e.g., “I ‘space out’ when I feel frightened or
under stress”); self-perception (e.g., “I feel chronically guilty
about all kinds of things”); perception of the perpetrator (e.g., “I
sometimes think that people had the right to hurt me”); relations
with others (e.g., “I have trouble trusting people”); somatiza-
tion (e.g., “I suffer from chronic pain, yet doctors could not
find a clear cause for it”); and systems of meaning (e.g., “I
believe that life has lost its meaning”). Participants are asked
how much each item has been true in the past month; responses
range from none/not at all to very much so (wording is specific
to each item) and are rated on a scale from 0 to 4. In the devel-
opment sample, these major scales had a Cronbach’s αranging
from .53 to .90; the internal consistency estimate for the overall
scale was .96. The perception of the perpetrator scale had the
lowest αvalue; thus, this scale was excluded from the overall
There are many inconsistencies in the use of the SIDES to
diagnose DESNOS because varying scoring formulations have
been used (Ford & Kidd, 1998; Pelcovitz et al., 1997; Scoboria
et al., 2008; Zlotnick & Pearlstein, 1997). One study evaluated
the factor structure of a revised version of the SIDES (Sco-
boria et al., 2008) in a trauma and substance abuse treatment-
seeking sample. A 5-factor model was derived from the retained
items: demoralization, somatic dysregulation, anger dysregula-
tion, risk/self-harm, and altered sexuality. These factors do not
appear to have been used in subsequent definitions or research
on DESNOS or CPTSD. Importantly, although dissociation is
considered an important aspect of DESNOS, none of the SIDES
dissociation items loaded significantly on these factors. Addi-
tional items not related to these factors included those assessing
ineffectiveness, guilt, and shame.
Several studies have investigated the validity of the SIDES.
Zlotnick and Pearlstein (1997) reported that the various sub-
scales were moderately correlated with the borderline subscale
of the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire-Revised (PDQ-R;
Hyler, Skodol, Kellman, Oldham, & Rosnick, 1990), the
avoidant and hypervigilance subscales of the Clinician Ad-
ministered PTSD Scale (CAPS; Weathers, Keane, & Davidson,
2001), the Self-Injury Inventory (Zlotnick, Shea, Pearlstein, &
Simpson, 1996), and the hostile and somatization subscales
of the Symptom Checklist-90-R (SCL-90-R; Derogatis, 1977).
Scoboria et al. (2008) investigated the concurrent, convergent,
and discriminant validity of the SIDES. Comparison of individ-
uals with no trauma history, noninterpersonal trauma histories,
physical trauma, and sexual trauma indicated that those with
sexual trauma had higher scores on all SIDES-R factors as well
as the total scale. In addition, participants with recurring inter-
personal trauma histories had higher scores on the total scale
as well as the somatic dysregulation, anger dysregulation, and
risk/self-harm scales.
Journal of Traumatic Stress DOI: 10.1002/jts. Published on behalf of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
244 Resick et al.
An important limitation to using the SIDES for diagnos-
tic purposes has been noted. Scoboria et al. (2008) reported
that although the interview is administered in the context of
discussing past traumatic experiences, the interview questions
focus on general symptoms and not those related to a specific
event. PTSD, by definition, is diagnosed only if symptom on-
set is related to a traumatic event. Although the hypothesis
is that DESNOS/CPTSD develops in response to trauma, it
is notable that the only measure specifically developed to as-
sess this construct does not tie symptoms to traumatic events.
Thus, a positive diagnosis based on the SIDES only indicates
that symptoms are present. If they are present in individuals
who report trauma exposure, then we know only that these
symptoms are correlated, but cannot determine whether these
symptoms were present before the trauma. In other words, no
conclusions of causality can be drawn through the use of this
Other Measures
Other measures have been used in an effort to assess CPTSD.
In a study of treatment of PTSD related to childhood abuse,
Cloitre et al. (2010) used a variety of measures to tap into the
various constructs representing a range of symptoms associated
with PTSD: Negative Mood Regulation Scale (Catanzaro &
Mearns, 1990), Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (Horowitz,
Rosenberg, Baer, Ure˜
no, & Villase˜
nor, 1988), Beck Depres-
sion Inventory (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh,
1961), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, 1983), and
State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (Spielberger, 1991).
Choi et al. (2009) used the Korean versions of the SCL-90-
Somatization subscale (Kim, Kim, & Won, 1984), Dissociative
Experiences Scale (Park et al., 1995), and the Inventory of Self-
Altered Capacities (Park, Suh, & Lee, 2006) to compare PTSD
and DESNOS symptoms among women who had experienced
CSA and prostitution.
Resick, Nishith, and Griffin. (2003) used the Trauma Symp-
tom Inventory (TSI; Briere, 1995) to measure symptoms as-
sociated with CPTSD. Among other symptoms, the TSI eval-
uates the intra- and interpersonal problems often associated
with chronic trauma and DESNOS: dissociation, impaired self-
reference, sexual concerns, dysfunctional sexual behavior, and
tension reduction behavior. Finally, Zlotnick et al. (1996) used
seven self-report measures to assess six key symptoms of
DESNOS: somatization (assessed by the Somatization subscale
of the SCL-90-R; Derogatis, 1977), dissociation (assessed by
the DES; Bernstein & Putnam, 1986), affective symptoms (as-
sessed using the Depression, Hostility, and Anxiety subscales
of SCL-90-R; Derogatis, 1977; and the Toronto Alexithymia
Scale; TAS; Taylor, 1984), relationship change (measured using
the Social Adjustment Scale Self-Report; SAS-SR; Weissman
& Bothwell, 1976), identity changes (assessed by the Schema
Questionnaire; Schmidt, 1994), and repetition of harm, which
was measured with a custom scale (the Self-Injury Inventory)
that assessed whether subjects had experienced physical or sex-
ual assault as an adult.
The strategy of using multiple measures of largely nonover-
lapping symptoms that were not designed to measure CPTSD
is problematic for the diagnosis and measurement of CPTSD
symptoms. The measures were not designed for this purpose,
their boundaries with each other and with CPTSD have not
been evaluated, and they were not designed to link symptoms
to experiences of traumatic events. The combination of mea-
sures also makes it difficult to establish a cutoff or diagnostic
decision rules. Thus, the use of a collection of measures of the
various facets of CPTSD complicates interpretation of results
and comparisons across studies. Efforts to develop instruments
to diagnose and measure symptoms of CPTSD are critical to
the advancement of a research agenda to establish construct
The Discriminant Validity Of CPTSD
CPTSD Criteria Overlap
Our review indicated significant overlap between the proposed
symptoms of CPTSD and PTSD, borderline personality dis-
order (BPD), and major depressive disorder (MDD). Figure 1
illustrates that most symptoms of CPTSD are also criteria or
symptoms of these other disorders. For example, affect dysreg-
ulation is not specific to CPTSD; it is a core feature of BPD,
PTSD, MDD, and many other Axis I disorders (Kring, 2008),
as is functional impairment, which is required for all DSM-
IV-TR disorders. Symptoms such as hopelessness and feeling
ineffective are cognitive features of depression (Beck, 1967).
CPTSD also overlaps with some dissociative disorders (Cour-
tois & Ford, 2009). Of course, the problem of symptom overlap
is not unique to CPTSD. For example, Kessler et al. (1995)
reported that 47.9% of men and 48.5% of women with life-
time PTSD had a lifetime history of at least one major depres-
sive episode. Grant, Beck, Marques, Palyo, and Clapp (2008)
demonstrated that PTSD and depression are related but distinct
concepts; however, no similar results have yet been reported
for CPTSD and depression. More research has been conducted
that is relevant to the overlap with BPD and PTSD, which we
consider below in greater detail.
Distinctiveness From PTSD
As Figure 1 illustrates, there is significant overlap between
symptoms of PTSD and CPTSD. For example, the symptoms
of social isolation, irritability/anger, shame, distrust, avoidance,
and features of disturbances in consciousness are listed among
criteria for PTSD, including proposed DSM-5 criteria. Prob-
lems with memory and concentration are listed as symptoms
of dissociation in CPTSD and are core symptoms of PTSD.
Finally, dissociation is also included in PTSD (i.e., flashbacks,
dissociative amnesia). Little research has been conducted on
Journal of Traumatic Stress DOI: 10.1002/jts. Published on behalf of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
Critical Evaluation of CPTSD 245
Figure 1. Venn diagram of the overlap between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) core symptoms, PTSD-associated symptoms, disorders of extreme stress not
otherwise specified (DESNOS)/complex PTSD, borderline personality disorder (BPD), and major depressive disorder (MDD).
the discriminant validity of CPTSD, i.e., the degree to which it
diverges from constructs that are theoretically distinct.
Using the SIDES, Ford (1999) found cases of DESNOS with-
out comorbid PTSD, leading him to conclude that PTSD and
DESNOS are qualitatively distinct although often co-occurring.
Similarly the CPTSD field trial for DSM-IV indicated three
symptoms, somatization, dissociation, and affect dysregulation,
sometimes occurred independently of PTSD, although were
still strongly correlated with it (van der Kolk, Pelcovitz, Roth,
& Mandel, 1996). The field trial, however, also found a 92%
comorbidity rate between DESNOS and PTSD. This could rep-
resent true comorbidity between independent syndromes aris-
ing from shared etiologic factors, but empirical work is needed
to rule out alternative explanations, including, for example, that
CPTSD and PTSD are simply alternate phenotypic expressions
of the same disorder process, or that one is a special case of the
other (Klein & Riso, 1993).
Other studies have examined the distinctiveness of CPTSD
from PTSD. For example, Cloitre, Miranda, Stovall-McClough,
& Han (2005) compared symptoms of PTSD versus interper-
sonal problems and negative mood regulation self-expectancies
to determine if problems in the latter two domains in women
with histories of childhood abuse were uniquely associated
with functional impairment. A hierarchical regression model
suggested that interpersonal problems and negative mood regu-
lation expectancies explained an additional 4% and 11% of the
variance, respectively, in functioning beyond that attributable
to PTSD. Implications of this work, however, with respect to
the distinctness of CPTSD from PTSD are limited by several
concerns. First, CPTSD was not formally assessed; thus, the
extent to which these results are pertinent to CPTSD is un-
known. Second, the interpersonal problems and negative mood
regulation expectancies measures correlated with each other
at r=−.24; this weak association would argue against the
ability to use these two inventories to assess a broader, cohe-
sive construct, such as CPTSD. Third, the analysis was never
reversed (i.e., PTSD was never added as the last step in the
regression model) and this makes it impossible to determine if
PTSD might explain variance beyond that attributable to these
other two symptom dimensions.
Given the established validity of PTSD, we believe that
further evaluation of the discriminant validity of the CPTSD
construct must come before codifying CPTSD as a diagnosis.
If CPTSD and PTSD are not distinct disorders (perhaps in-
stead sharing common underlying dimensions) then introduc-
ing the separate diagnosis may impede research efforts aimed
at examining the prevalence and course of trauma-related psy-
chopathology, and will complicate clinical decision making
(Lilienfeld, Waldman, & Israel, 1994).
Distinctiveness from BPD
Multiple scholars have noted the overlap between CPTSD and
BPD, both in terms of symptoms (e.g., impaired interper-
sonal functioning, impaired sense of self, dissociative symp-
toms, anger, impulsivity, and self-harm) and theorized causal
links to trauma exposure. Some have debated the merits of
reconceptualizing BPD as a complex trauma spectrum disor-
der (Gunderson & Sabo, 1993; Herman & van der Kolk, 1987;
Lewis & Grenyer, 2009). In light of this suggestion, one of the
Journal of Traumatic Stress DOI: 10.1002/jts. Published on behalf of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
246 Resick et al.
important untested assumptions of CPTSD is that it is distinct
from BPD. If it is distinct, trauma exposure (especially early
and repeated childhood trauma) should show a stronger magni-
tude of association with CPTSD than BPD. Complex posttrau-
matic stress disorder should evidence differential patterns of
association with psychosocial correlates (i.e., personality, other
diagnoses, coping styles) relative to BPD. For example, BPD
should show stronger evidence of other personality pathology
relative to CPTSD, while CPTSD should show stronger associa-
tions with PTSD relative to BPD. Additionally, CPTSD should
differentially predict outcome variables such as response to
treatment, functioning and impairment, and quality of life rel-
ative to BPD. The longitudinal course of CPTSD should also
differ from that of BPD. Complex posttraumatic stress disorder-
specific treatment should be necessary for symptom reduction
(i.e., treatments originally designed to address symptoms of
BPD, such as dialectical behavior therapy [Linehan, 1993],
should not be sufficient at reducing CPTSD symptoms). More
generally, in predicting important dependent variables such as
functioning, quality of life, employability, and response to treat-
ment, CPTSD symptoms should evidence incremental validity
over BPD symptoms. Each of these questions await empirical
examination. Without this nomological network established, in-
clusion of CPTSD as a diagnosis risks introducing confusion
and redundancy into the diagnostic classification system and
may impede research on the constellation of symptoms shared
across CPTSD and BPD.
The question of whether CPTSD is likely to be a discrete, cat-
egorical construct distinct from BPD can be further explored by
examining taxometric evidence. As described, overlap between
BPD and CPTSD is primarily in the domains of affective and
impulse-control dysregulation and unstable relationships; thus,
we can look to these symptoms of BPD as a proxy for CPTSD to
evaluate whether they are distributed dimensionally in the popu-
lation or exist in a discrete subgroup of individuals (i.e., taxon).
Current taxometric evidence from DSM-based interviews and
self-report measures supports a dimensional structure for these
symptoms across samples of women and men, psychiatric in-
patients, outpatients, and prison inmates (Arntz et al., 2009;
Edens, Marcus, & Ruiz, 2008; Rothschild, Cleland, Haslam,
& Zimmerman, 2003; Trull, Widiger, & Guthrie, 1990). These
findings tend to support a growing consensus that most per-
sonality disorders reflect deviation from healthy personality by
degree and not by type (Haslam, 2007; Trull & Durrett, 2005),
which argues against the existence of discrete disorders with
natural boundaries, and to the extent trauma plays a causal role,
is consistent with a spectrum of posttraumatic maladjustment.
Importantly, the significant overlap in symptomatology be-
tween CPTSD and existing disorders does not in and of itself
prove that CPTSD is not an independent entity. As a parallel,
the nosology of medical diseases contains many examples of
separate classifications of syndromes that symptomatically ap-
pear quite similar (e.g., influenza and the common cold). In
those cases, however, the classifications are based on empirical
evidence that the disease processes differ in etiological agent
and/or pathophysiology. With CPTSD, the putative etiological
agent is complex trauma, but at this time, it has not been shown
to be qualitatively distinct from traumas associated with PTSD.
In the absence of unique symptomatology, empirically estab-
lishing the uniqueness of the etiology is a necessary precursor
to introducing a new diagnosis.
CPTSD Symptoms not Accounted for by Existing
After accounting for symptom overlap with PTSD, BPD, and
MDD, two symptoms remain that may set CPTSD apart from
other diagnoses: change from previous personality and loss of
previously sustaining beliefs, which have received less attention
in the literature than other proposed CPTSD features. Prospec-
tive research is necessary to understand how such features mani-
fest themselves as a function of trauma history. Particularly with
CSA and other childhood traumas, it may be less the case that
trauma changes previously held beliefs or personality charac-
teristics, and more that trauma impacts the formation of patterns
of behavior and beliefs about the self, world, and others. The
concepts of assimilation, overaccommodation, and accommo-
dation have been applied to PTSD (Resick & Schnicke, 1993) in
recognition that a traumatic event can alter beliefs (Foa, Cash-
man, Jaycox, & Perry, 1997) and that these beliefs change as
a result of treatment (Owens & Chard, 2003; Resick, Nishith,
Weaver, Astin, & Feuer 2002; Resick et al., 2008), but whether
qualitatively different alterations to belief systems are expe-
rienced by individuals with complex trauma histories has not
been established. Resick et al. (2003) compared women with
and without a history of CSA on the Impaired Self-Reference
Scale of the TSI (Briere, 1995), which measures problems in
personal identity and unstable sense of self. Although the CSA
group had greater trauma history across a range of events, they
did not report differences in impaired self-reference. This lack
of an association runs counter to the hypothesis that individuals
with CSA histories are more likely than other trauma groups to
exhibit these proposed CPTSD symptoms.
Treatment of CPTSD
Other construct issues aside, the clinical utility of CPTSD rests
on demonstrating that the diagnosis would make a difference
for treatment outcome. Without a uniform definition of CPTSD,
and only one measure of DESNOS, the SIDES, which is not
anchored to trauma, studying treatment of CPTSD has been
challenging. Well-designed clinical trials with appropriate in-
clusion and exclusion criteria, as well as appropriate measure-
ment and comparisons against standard treatments for PTSD,
are needed.
We identified only one study that used CPTSD as an inclu-
sion criterion. Dorrepaal et al. (2010) conducted an open pilot
trial of a stabilizing group treatment protocol for CPTSD. Par-
ticipants included 36 women with a history of childhood abuse
Journal of Traumatic Stress DOI: 10.1002/jts. Published on behalf of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
Critical Evaluation of CPTSD 247
who met criteria for both PTSD and DESNOS (assessed with
the SIDES). Participants received concurrent individual ther-
apy during their group participation. At posttreatment, 22% of
the sample no longer met criteria for PTSD; at the 6-month
follow up, 35% of the sample no longer met criteria. In terms
of CPTSD, at posttreatment, 64% no longer met criteria; at the
6-month followup, 78% no longer met criteria.
Another study examined a treatment for CPTSD, although
this study did not use CPTSD as an inclusion criterion. Specifi-
cally, Zlotnick and colleagues (1997) compared an affect man-
agement group to a waitlist control condition; all participants
received unspecified individual therapy and pharmacotherapy
throughout the duration of the study. Although it was not an in-
clusion criterion, all individuals met criteria for DESNOS based
on the SIDES. The results showed that participants in the affect
management group improved more on PTSD and dissociative
symptoms than individuals in the waitlist condition.
The results of these two studies suggest that supplemental
affect management groups may be somewhat effective in help-
ing to alleviate PTSD and CPTSD symptoms. It is important,
however, to note that neither study compared the treatments to
either trauma-focused therapies or an active control condition.
Furthermore, in both studies, participants received individual
unspecified therapy in addition to affective management skills.
This is particularly problematic for interpreting the results of
the Dorrepaal et al. (2010) study, which did not include a com-
parison group. It is unclear if participants improved due to the
affect management group, individual therapy, or a combination
of the two. The absence of well-controlled studies examining
the effects of treatment on CPTSD makes it difficult to draw
conclusions about appropriate treatments for CPTSD.
A number of other researchers have developed protocols to
treat symptoms that may arise from serial traumatization. These
include a phase-based protocol (i.e., Skills Training in Affect
and Interpersonal Regulation; STAIR) developed by Cloitre and
her colleagues (Cloitre, Koenen, Cohen, & Han, 2002; Cloitre
et al., 2010) that was designed to treat symptoms that develop in
individuals who experienced childhood abuse. The Attachment,
Self-Regulation, and Competency (ARC) protocol, was devel-
oped to be used with severely traumatized children and ado-
lescents (Kinniburgh, Blaustein, Spinazzola, & van der Kolk,
2005). Narrative Exposure Therapy (Schauer, Neuner, & Elbert,
2005) has been used to treat symptoms that present in asylum
seekers and refugees (Robjant & Fazel, 2010). Others have
attempted to use existing treatments for PTSD (e.g., Cogni-
tive Processing Therapy; CPT) for CPTSD symptoms (Chard,
2005). These treatments have shown promise in reducing symp-
toms of PTSD and other trauma-related symptomatology. None
of these studies, however, used CPTSD as an inclusion criterion,
nor did they explicitly assess CPTSD (i.e., they did not use the
SIDES.) Further, although several of these studies used mea-
sures that presumably capture some of the symptoms of CPTSD
(e.g., Cloitre et al., 2002, 2010; Resick et al., 2003), without em-
ploying cut points to distinguish between individuals with and
without CPTSD the percentage of their samples who met crite-
ria for CPTSD could not be computed. Therefore, these studies
do not provide clear evidence of treatments that are effective
specifically for individuals diagnosed with CPTSD. Additional
research that explicitly examines these treatments with a pop-
ulation of CPTSD diagnosed individuals is necessary before
such claims can be made.
Before making our concluding statements, we would like to
explicitly acknowledge that those authors who have proposed
a CPTSD diagnosis have brought attention to important unre-
solved issues regarding adaptation following trauma exposure.
First, we appreciate the importance of attempting to understand
the heterogeneity in posttraumatic psychological distress. A
single diagnosis (i.e., PTSD) cannot adequately capture this
heterogeneity, and more research is needed to better account
for the heterogeneity within and beyond PTSD. Research ex-
amining aspects of CPTSD, from etiology to symptomatology,
have also helped elucidate many mechanisms contributing to
the very complex and dynamic processes underlying all forms
of posttraumatic adaptation, from resilience and recovery to
severe and chronic psychological distress. For instance, Ford
(2009) provided a sophisticated review of neurobiological pro-
cesses that are impacted by repeated-trauma exposure early in
life. This review elegantly illustrates how brain systems un-
derlying emotion regulation, information processing, healthy
attachment, and the development of interpersonal relationships
are affected by early and repeated exposure to trauma. This
work is important and will contribute to the development of
more sophisticated biological/neural models of posttraumatic
distress (e.g., Garfinkel & Liberzon, 2009; Suvak & Barrett,
2011). Although important and informative, Ford’s review did
not include any studies of individuals diagnosed with CPTSD.
We are not aware of any studies that have examined neuro-
biological mechanisms in individuals diagnosed with CPTSD.
Therefore, the extant neurobiological literature is limited in
what it can say about CPTSD providing a “coherent formu-
lation of the consequences of prolonged and repeated expo-
sure” (Herman, 2009, p. xiii). Understanding the neurobiologi-
cal mechanisms contributing specifically to CPTSD requires a
concise and coherent formulation and reliable and valid means
of assessment. Once this formulation is developed and opera-
tionalized, neurobiological investigations can be conducted to
help develop a nomological network of research support for the
construct validity of CPTSD.
Second, Herman (1992a) brought much needed attention to
the social and political influences that impact how the field, and
society more generally, conceptualizes responses to trauma. For
instance, today there is a tendency for PTSD to be thought as of
the “legitimate” response to trauma, whereas diagnoses such as
BPD and substance abuse disorders, which are often the result
of trauma, are often thought of as deficits of personality or char-
acter. Third, discussions of CPTSD have brought attention to
Journal of Traumatic Stress DOI: 10.1002/jts. Published on behalf of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
248 Resick et al.
developmental issues related to trauma and we applaud trauma
research that adopts this developmental, life span perspective.
We hope that this critical review of the CPTSD construct as
a psychiatric diagnosis will promote more sound scientific re-
search that addresses these very important issues.
Implications for DSM-5
The variety of untested assumptions, existing literature, and
dearth of new research on the validity of the DESNOS or
CPTSD since the implementation of the DSM-IV ledustocon-
clude that there is insufficient evidence to warrant the addition
of a CPTSD diagnosis in the DSM-5. The DSM-5,however,is
proposing to add to the PTSD diagnosis symptoms that have
frequently been viewed as falling in the range of CPTSD: dis-
torted beliefs about self and others, erroneous blame of self
and others, dissociation, reckless behavior, and the full range
of negative emotions. As with the DSM-IV, functional impair-
ment, including interpersonal functioning, is included.
One untested assumption is the degree to which adoption
of the CPTSD diagnosis would bring about greater parsimony
to the diagnostic nomenclature. In one view, it would be sim-
pler if an individual were diagnosed with a single disorder
(i.e., CPTSD) as opposed to multiple disorders (i.e., PTSD,
BPD, and major depression). On the other hand, the introduc-
tion of a complex variant of PTSD that shares such significant
symptom overlap with other diagnoses does not seem to be
parsimonious in solving problems in the classification of men-
tal disorders, because this would add to diagnostic confusion
and limit diagnostic reliability. Brett (1996) argued for the need
for a more comprehensive list of symptoms that would include
the DESNOS/CPTSD symptoms on the grounds that the PTSD
criteria “are often used by clinicians as if they were complete
descriptions of mental disorders” and because “a clinician may
miss the PTSD diagnosis because associated features are more
prominent, or the associated features may be overlooked be-
cause of the presence of the PTSD” (p. 125). This appears,
however, to be a problem that could occur with any disorder
and is not specific to PTSD. Better training of clinicians would
be more efficient than a change in the diagnostic system.
The magnitude of establishing a new CPTSD diagnosis is
reflected by the fact that there is no precedent in the estab-
lished diagnostic systems for splitting off a more severe form
of any disorder. Despite variations in symptom presentations
for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, there is no
separate diagnosis of complex MDD or complex schizophrenia.
Importantly, though, these diagnoses do include specifiers that
reflect important differences in course and symptom presenta-
tion. As such, in addition to research on CPTSD as a separate
construct, investigation of a possible complex specifier may
also be warranted.
A dissociative subtype of PTSD is under consideration for
the DSM-5 due to a convergence of epidemiological, physio-
logical, brain imaging, and treatment study differences between
those with severe PTSD with and without dissociation. There
is growing consensus that individuals with severe PTSD who
dissociate may reflect a discrete group or subtype of individuals
with PTSD (Griffin, Nishith, Resick, & Yehuda, 1997; Lanius
et al., 2010; Putnam, Carlson, Ross, & Anderson, 1996; Waelde,
Silvern, & Fairbank, 2005; Wolf et al., in press) who exhibit
a distinct neurocircuitry marked by over-modulation of brain
regions governing emotion (Lanius et al., 2010). Such work
also suggests that individuals who dissociate may respond dif-
ferently to PTSD treatment (Cloitre et al., 2012; Resick, Suvak,
Johnides, Mitchell, & Iverson, in press). The dissociative sub-
type (which is a much narrower construct than that of CPTSD)
is under consideration for inclusion in the DSM-5 in an effort
to better capture the heterogeneity in the clinical presentation
of PTSD. To our knowledge, no study has empirically evalu-
ated the evidence for a similar CPTSD subtype of PTSD. The
CPTSD literature would benefit from a similar series of evalua-
tions to determine the nature of its relationship to PTSD and its
clinical utility with respect to characterizing distinct responses
to trauma.
Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder as a Trauma
Spectrum Disorder
Even in concluding there is currently insufficient evidence to
consider CPTSD a distinct diagnostic category, we do not dis-
miss or marginalize the putative CPTSD clinical phenomena
that are not captured by DSM-IV-TR or even proposed DSM-5
PTSD nosology. We suggest, however, that efforts to explore the
structure and boundaries of these phenomena should consider
that they may not constitute a discrete disorder at all, but instead
the product of extremes on one or more underlying dimensions,
perhaps the same dimension(s) underlying PTSD, BPD, and
other overlapping conditions. Although proper CPTSD struc-
tural work must await the development of reliable and valid
measures that can produce a robust factor structure, as an
approximation it is noteworthy that pathological reactions to
trauma included in PTSD have been found better characterized
as a dimension of symptomatic severity rather than a discrete
category (Broman-Fulks et al., 2006, 2009; Forbes, Haslam,
Williams, & Creamer, 2005; Ruscio, Ruscio, & Keane, 2002).
One implication is that PTSD likely has a multifactorial eti-
ology, as latent dimensions are thought to be produced by the
small additive effects of multiple risk and protective factors
(Meehl, 1992). Indeed, meta-analyses indicate that the specific
traumatic stressor is not the only determinant of posttraumatic
maladjustment (Brewin et al., 2000; Ozer et al., 2003). There-
fore, unless and until complex traumas are shown to have qual-
itatively different causal effects, the working hypothesis that
complex posttraumatic symptomatology also falls on a con-
tinuum seems plausible. A dimensional structure for CPTSD
would also be more consistent with growing evidence that a
small number of internalizing psychopathology dimensions can
explain an array of DSM categorical diagnoses, including anxi-
ety and mood disorders and BPD (Kotov et al., 2011; Krueger,
Journal of Traumatic Stress DOI: 10.1002/jts. Published on behalf of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
Critical Evaluation of CPTSD 249
1999; cf. Watson, 2005). The dimensional hypothesis seems to
warrant serious attention by CPTSD researchers.
There is need for a great deal of research on all aspects of
CPTSD to justify it as a psychiatric diagnosis. First and most
important, there is need for a uniform definition of the proposed
construct, which is necessary, but not sufficient, for demonstrat-
ing that the construct is distinct from other diagnoses, or that
CPTSD has a unique etiology. The development of measures
that can reliably and validly assess the severity of symptoms
of CPTSD is a critical next step. As our review demonstrates,
it is important to clearly establish that CPTSD is a separate
construct rather than a more severe form of PTSD before it
can be recognized as a distinct diagnosis. Additionally, be-
fore establishing a CPTSD diagnosis, the incremental clinical
benefit of doing so must be established. Many clinical trials
have included people who would potentially meet the defini-
tion of CPTSD in terms of symptoms and who have complex
trauma histories. Many of these individuals have appeared to
respond to single-phase treatments that are effective for those
with PTSD (e.g., Chard, 2005; Resick et al., 2003). Better char-
acterization of the samples, comparisons of CPTSD treatments
with other treatments typically thought of as PTSD treatments
(e.g., CPT, PE), and analyses to determine whether CPTSD
symptoms improve after treatment are essential to determining
whether different treatments are indicated for individuals with
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... Such inconsistencies may be due to differences across studies in the measurement of CM (this is considered in more detail in the next section). This type of evidence would confirm a distinct aetiological pathway associated with exposure to specific traumatic events and also provide evidence of clinical meaningfulness (Palic & Elklit, 2014;Resick et al., 2012). ...
... However, there has been debate about whether responses to complex trauma should conceive of it as a single diagnostic category (i.e. cPTSD) or a pattern of personality and other mental disorder comorbidities (Resick et al., 2012). Other researchers have argued that cPTSD offers a simplified and coherent diagnostic category and thus reduces the overpathologising of individuals by using multiple diagnoses to explain a person's presentation (Nickerson et al., 2017). ...
... Research investigating the sequelae of type I vs. type II trauma has mainly focused on conceptual issues (e.g. whether or not different diagnoses are needed for classic vs. more complex PTSD) Resick et al., 2012) or the type of symptoms experienced following the different trauma types (Briere et al., 2008;Cloitre et al., 2009). However, to our knowledge, there has been no investigation about whether trauma type defined in this way is related to the co-occurrence of these symptoms, i.e. the PTSD symptom network structure. ...
... If replicated, this could suggest that future studies investigating PTSD symptom networks may benefit from paying closer attention to trauma type as a moderator, whereby the distinction between type I and type II trauma appears to be a promising starting point. In addition, there may also be implications for the literature focusing on differences in sequelae of type I vs. type II trauma, suggesting that in addition to focusing on the question of whether the different types of trauma lead to different symptoms and/or diagnoses (see Resick et al., 2012), the structure and inter-relationship of symptoms, as well as their potentially causal links, may be important to consider. ...
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Background: Network analysis has gained increasing attention as a new framework to study complex associations between symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A number of studies have been published to investigate symptom networks on different sets of symptoms in different populations, and the findings have been inconsistent. Objective: We aimed to extend previous research by testing whether differences in PTSD symptom networks can be found in survivors of type I (single event; sudden and unexpected, high levels of acute threat) vs. type II (repeated and/or protracted; anticipated) trauma (with regard to their index trauma). Method: Participants were trauma-exposed individuals with elevated levels of PTSD symptomatology, most of whom (94%) were undergoing assessment in preparation for PTSD treatment in several treatment centres in Germany and Switzerland (n = 286 with type I and n = 187 with type II trauma). We estimated Bayesian Gaussian graphical models for each trauma group and explored group differences in the symptom network. Results: First, for both trauma types, our analyses identified the edges that were repeatedly reported in previous network studies. Second, there was decisive evidence that the two networks were generated from different multivariate normal distributions, i.e. the networks differed on a global level. Third, explorative edge-wise comparisons showed moderate or strong evidence for specific 12 edges. Edges which emerged as especially important in distinguishing the networks were between intrusions and flashbacks, highlighting the stronger positive association in the group of type II trauma survivors compared to type I survivors. Flashbacks showed a similar pattern of results in the associations with detachment and sleep problems (type II > type I). Conclusion: Our findings suggest that trauma type contributes to the heterogeneity in the symptom network. Future research on PTSD symptom networks should include this variable in the analyses to reduce heterogeneity.
... Current studies confirm that cPTSD is a distinct disorder [review in Brewin et al., 2017;Knefel et al., 2020; Cloitre et al., 2020a]. However, the cPTSD diagnosis is also subject to controversy about the validity of the diagnosis [Resick et al., 2012;De Jongh et al., 2016;Achterhof et al., 2019;Ford, 2020]. Another open question is to what extent existing trauma-focused interventions are effective in treating complex trauma symptoms, or whether modified treatments are needed. ...
The number and type of traumatic experiences (especially childhood maltreatment) appear to increase the risk of developing complex trauma symptoms. There is initial evidence that patients with complex trauma benefit from phase-based therapeutic approaches. STAIR-NT (Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation with Narrative Therapy) is a two-phase trauma therapy approach: emotion regulation and interpersonal skills are learned in the STAIR phase, and in the narrative therapy phase (NT) the exposure to trauma aims at recognizing and changing dysfunctional, trauma-associated assumptions. Experiences with STAIR-NT in the context of a current treatment study show that the two phases provide a clear structure and more security for the treatment. First clinical experiences with STAIR-NT as well as short case vignettes are presented and recommendations for the treatment of patients with complex trauma are given. Concrete practical recommendations are offered for the implementation and individualization on interventions, which among others relate to offender contact, motivational work, handling dissociative states, therapeutic methods (especially exposure), and therapy completion. The close connection between theory and practice facilitates the transfer of learning experiences into everyday life and promotes the strengthening of patients’ self-efficacy and autonomy.
... The introduction of CPTSD as a new disorder in the ICD-11 generated significant criticism. For instance, one criticism is that CPTSD only represents a comorbidity between PTSD and borderline personality disorder, which makes an introduction of a new disorder redundant (Resick et al., 2012, see Maercker, 2021. However, empirical findings demonstrated that CPTSD possesses a distinct, reliable, and useful symptom profile (Brewin et al., 2017;Kazlauskas et al., 2018), which finally led to the inclusion of CPTSD in the ICD-11. ...
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Background After almost three decades of ICD-10 use for diagnostic purposes, the World Health Organization has conducted a systematic and elaborate evaluation to revise the classification of mental disorders in this system. This revision resulted in the 11th version (ICD-11), introduced in 2022. As one new feature, the ICD-11 forms a new grouping of mental disorders specifically associated with stress. Method The current review presents an overview of the diagnostic features and cultural specifications of disorders specifically associated with stress. This grouping includes posttraumatic stress disorder and complex posttraumatic stress disorder, prolonged grief disorder, adjustment disorder, as well as two diagnoses for children, reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder. Results Overall, there is evidence for the improved clinical utility and applicability of these disorders. The disorders have been defined in a parsimonious way by few features, but they suffice for scientific purposes as well. Conclusion However, more research is needed to evaluate assessments for the diagnoses and diagnostic features in the ICD-11.
... Until recently, complex PTSD has not been recognized as a discrete disorder in psychiatric classifications (Resick et al., 2012); however, the 11th revision to the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) proposes a new diagnostic category: Complex PTSD (CPTSD). It is conceptualized as multidimensional and hierarchical with PTSD as a precursor (Shelvin et al., 2017). ...
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The present study investigated the cumulative and potential synergistic effect of prolonged adversity from pre-migration to post-migration phases in the prediction of posttraumatic stress [PTSD & Complex PTSD (CPTSD)] among Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the U.S. This study included recent 51 Iraqi and 43 Syrian (n = 94) refugees in Massachusetts. Quantitative data were collected through surveys measuring trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress. Effects were evaluated through a series of hierarchical and multiple regression analyses. Preliminary analyses indicated pre-and post-migration stressors together predict PTSD but not CPTSD. However, only post-migration discrimination predicted CPTSD. Post-migration stress exposure emerged as a significant moderator between pre-migration stress exposure and psychological distress (i.e., PTSD). Findings provided support for the cumulative impact of refugees’ exposure to trauma from the pre-to-post-migration process, and shed light on the importance of the post-migration context in the prediction of PTSD.
... There is still controversy over whether DESNOS and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [9] are distinct diagnoses, or whether the former is a complication of the latter [10]. Considering that most adults with DESNOS also meet PTSD criteria [11], the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) [9] has included DESNOS psychopathology outcomes as specific features of PTSD. ...
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Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS) refers to a constellation of symptoms deriving from chronic interpersonal trauma, inflicted by caregivers or in the context of intimate relationships. The Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress—Self-Report (SIDES-SR) was designed for the assessment of DESNOS. This study aimed to validate the Portuguese version of the SIDES-SR in the community (N = 814; Mage = 40.09, SD = 14.25, 39.2% male, 60.8% female) and clinical (N = 310; Mage = 42.49, SD = 12.47, 57.7% male, 42.3% female) samples. It had three objectives: (1) to validate the SIDES-SR rationally derived domains in the community sample; (2) to characterise the reliability of the SIDES-SR scales in both samples; and (3) to explore mean differences in the SIDES-SR results in both samples. The Portuguese SIDES-SR confirmed the six clinical domains of DESNOS and demonstrated acceptable internal consistency levels, similar to those obtained in prior research. Highly significant differences and large and very large effect sizes between the community and clinical samples were found for all the SIDES-SR domains. DESNOS symptomatology was shown to be more frequent in females and the clinical sample reported a higher frequency of traumatic events in life, specifically interpersonal trauma. The results support the relevance of the SIDES-SR for clinical practice in the assessment of the DESNOS diagnosis.
Background: Trauma is highly prevalent in bipolar disorder, and while considerable research has been undertaken in relation to childhood trauma, little is known about the experience and the impact of exposure to multiple trauma types across the lifespan, otherwise known as cumulative trauma. This study aimed to examine the prevalence of cumulative trauma in bipolar disorder and explore its association with illness and other outcomes. Methods: Participants were recruited online globally and comprised 114 adults aged 23 to 73 years with BD-I (41.2 %) or BD-II (58.8 %). Participants completed an online questionnaire containing items regarding symptoms and trauma history followed by a diagnostic interview to confirm their BD diagnosis and assess BD symptoms. Results: Cumulative trauma accounted for most of the trauma exposure across both childhood (N = 89; 78.1 %) and adulthood (N = 72; 63.2 %). Those with lifetime cumulative trauma (n = 64; 56 %) were more likely to experience at least one other co-morbid mental health condition in addition to their BD diagnosis (88 %) and report significantly lower ratings of perceived social support compared to those who did not experience any cumulative trauma (N = 15; 13 %). Limitations: This study has been limited by the cross-sectional retrospective design as well as the use of self-selection to participate. Conclusions: Cumulative trauma is highly prevalent in bipolar disorder and is associated with greater likelihood of experiencing a psychiatric comorbidity and decreased levels of social support. More research is needed to explore the nature of this relationship and determine whether increasing social support may be of benefit.
The article presents the evolution of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) definition from various war syndromes to PTSD definition as a sovereign disorder and complex PTSD appearance in ICD-11 as distinct diagnosis. It is focused on the epidemiology, gender issues, clinical features and differential diagnostic PTSD aspects. It is considered elaboration of the new international clinical guidelines for the anxiety disorders including PTSD, the new pharmaceutical and psychotherapeutic treatment algorithms for PTSD based on the evidence based research data is presented. Additionally as an illustration case vignette is described.
Purpose. The article presents the results of adaptation and validation of the International Trauma Questionnaire (ITQ) on a Russian sample. The questionnaire measures the symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), which can develop as a result of exposure to prolonged, repetitive traumatic experiences in the interpersonal sphere. Method. The study was carried out on a non-clinical sample, which included 429 participants who were 18 to 68 years old and who experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. International Trauma Questionnaire (ITQ), LEC-5 (Life events checklist-5), author’s questionnaire “Emotional abuse”, Symptom Checklist (SCL-90-R) were used in the study. Results. The structure of the questionnaire in the Russian-speaking sample confirmed the two-factor model of complex PTSD, which combines the symptoms of PTSD («Re-experiencing», «Avoidance», «Sense of Threat») and disturbances of Self-organization («Affective Dysregulation», «Negative Self-concept», «Disturbances in Relationships»). Internal consistency of the scale was in the acceptable range. Among those who have experienced at least one traumatic event, 20% met criteria for PTSD (11%) or CPTSD (9%). These data show that respondents with CPTSD have more intense psychopathological symptoms than respondents with PTSD; women show more intense symptoms of CPTSD than men.
Children and adolescents who have been exposed to trauma have an increased risk of mental illness, including posttraumatic stress disorder and a wide range of other disorders. In fact, many develop broad psychopathology that challenges diagnostic boundaries. The mechanisms through which trauma exposure is linked with psychopathology are complex and include noncausal pathways and biological, psychological, and social factors. Targeting psychological processes with interventions, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, has been found to effectively treat posttraumatic stress disorder and cooccurring symptoms. However, most young people with trauma-related psychopathology do not access health services so they cannot benefit from evidence-based treatment. Future research that improves our understanding of broad trauma-related psychopathology and underlying mechanisms will reveal new targets for treatment and prevention interventions. To enable more trauma-exposed young people to benefit from these interventions, clinical implementation must be a priority and will require increased capacity and innovative approaches.
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This article describes factors that contribute to the treatment needs of complexly traumatized children, lists the primary domains targeted by the described trauma intervention, and identifies sample interventions in each targeted domain. The role of traumatic stress in shaping early development and the issue that exposure to complex interpersonal trauma is qualitatively distinct from acute trauma in both experience and effect cannot be understated. Traumatized children need a flexible approach to intervention. ARC (Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency model) has been developed in response to this challenge as an intervention framework designed to address the array of developmental vulnerabilities experienced by the complexly traumatized child by building or restoring developmental competencies; identifying and enhancing internal, familial, and systemic resources; and providing a foundation for continued growth. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Conference Paper
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Mental health professionals have debated whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be qualitatively distinguished from normal reactions to traumatic events. This debate has been fueled by indications that many trauma-exposed individuals evidence partial presentations of PTSD that are associated with significant impairment and help-seeking behavior. The authors examined the latent structure of PTSD in a large sample of male combat veterans, Three taxometric procedures-MAMBAC, MAXEIG, and L-Mode-were performed with 3 indicator sets drawn from a clinical interview and a self-report measure of PTSD. Results across procedures, consistency tests, and analysis of simulated comparison data all converged on a dimensional solution, suggesting that PTSD reflects the upper end of a stress-response continuum rather than a discrete clinical syndrome.
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A review of 2,647 studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) yielded 476 potential candidates for a meta-analysis of predictors of PTSD or of its symptoms. From these, 68 studies met criteria for inclusion in a meta-analysis of 7 predictors: (a) prior trauma, (b) prior psychological adjustment, (c) family history of psychopathology, (d) perceived life threat during the trauma, (e) posttrauma social support, (f) peritraumatic emotional responses, and (g) peritraumatic dissociation. All yielded significant effect sizes, with family history, prior trauma, and prior adjustment the smallest (weighted r = .17) and peritraumatic dissociation the largest (weighted r = .35). The results suggest that peritraumatic psychological processes, not prior characteristics, are the strongest predictors of PTSD.
Disorders of extreme stress not otherwise specified (DESNOS) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were found to be comorbid but distinct among military veterans seeking inpatient PTSD treatment: 31% qualified for both conditions, 29% were diagnosed PTSD only, 26% were classified DESNOS only, and 13% met criteria for neither. PTSD diagnosis was associated with elevated levels of war-zone trauma exposure and witnessing atrocities and with impairment on the Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD and the Penn Inventory. DESNOS classification (but not PTSD) was associated with (a) early childhood trauma and participation in war-zone atrocities, (b) extreme levels of intrusive trauma reexperiencing, (c) impaired characterological functioning (object relations), and (d) use of intensive psychiatric services. PTSD and DESNOS may be comorbid but distinct posttraumatic syndromes and, as such, warrant careful clinical and scientific investigation.