Home > Clinical Psychological Science, mental health and substance abuse, military and defense, veterans > The Roles of Combat Exposure, Personal Vulnerability, and Involvement in Harm to Civilians or Prisoners in Vietn am War–Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The Roles of Combat Exposure, Personal Vulnerability, and Involvement in Harm to Civilians or Prisoners in Vietn am War–Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

April 29, 2013

The Roles of Combat Exposure, Personal Vulnerability, and Involvement in Harm to Civilians or Prisoners in Vietnam War–Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Source: Clinical Psychological Science

The diagnosis posttraumatic stress disorder was introduced in 1980 amid debate about the psychiatric toll of the Vietnam War. There is controversy, however, about its central assumption that potentially traumatic stressors are more important than personal vulnerability in causing the disorder. We tested this assumption with data from a rigorously diagnosed male subsample (n = 260) from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. Combat exposure, prewar vulnerability, and involvement in harming civilians or prisoners were examined, with only combat exposure proving necessary for disorder onset. Although none of the three factors proved sufficient, estimated onset reached 97% for veterans high on all three, with harm to civilians or prisoners showing the largest independent contribution. Severity of combat exposure proved more important than prewar vulnerability in onset; prewar vulnerability was at least as important in long-term persistence. Implications for the primacy of the stressor assumption, further research, and policy are discussed.

See: Three Key Factors Interact to Increase PTSD Risk (Psychiatric News)

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