A Qualitative Study of Determinants of PTSD Treatment Initiation

Center for Chronic Diseases Outcomes Research, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Psychiatry Interpersonal & Biological Processes (Impact Factor: 3.05). 09/2009; 72(3):238-55. DOI: 10.1521/psyc.2009.72.3.238
Source: PubMed


Although there are effective treatments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), many PTSD sufferers wait years to decades before seeking professional help, if they seek it at all. An understanding of factors affecting treatment initiation for PTSD can inform strategies to promote help-seeking. We conducted a qualitative study to identify determinants of PTSD treatment initiation among 44 U.S. military veterans from the Vietnam and Afghanistan/Iraq wars; half were and half were not receiving treatment. Participants described barriers to and facilitators of treatment initiation within themselves, the post-trauma socio-cultural environment, the health care and disability systems, and their social networks. Lack of knowledge about PTSD was a barrier that occurred at both the societal and individual levels. Another important barrier theme was the enduring effect of experiencing an invalidating socio-cultural environment following trauma exposure. In some cases, system and social network facilitation led to treatment initiation despite individual-level barriers, such as beliefs and values that conflicted with help-seeking. Our findings expand the dominant model of service utilization by explicit incorporation of factors outside the individual into a conceptual framework of PTSD treatment initiation. Finally, we offer suggestions regarding the direction of future research and the development of interventions to promote timely help-seeking for PTSD.

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