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The cross-cultural validity of posttraumatic stress disorder: implications for DSM-5

Authors

  • Devon E. Hinton M.D. Ph.D.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
    • Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, 15 Parkman Street, WACC 812, Boston, MA 02114
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  • Roberto Lewis-Fernández M.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York
    • Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, Suite 3200 (Unit 69), New York, NY 10032
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  • No conflict of interest was declared.

Abstract

Background: There is considerable debate about the cross-cultural applicability of the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) category as currently specified. Concerns include the possible status of PTSD as a Western culture-bound disorder and the validity of individual items and criteria thresholds. This review examines various types of cross-cultural validity of the PTSD criteria as defined in DSM-IV-TR, and presents options and preliminary recommendations to be considered for DSM-5. Methods: Searches were conducted of the mental health literature, particularly since 1994, regarding cultural-, race-, or ethnicity-related factors that might limit the universal applicability of the diagnostic criteria of PTSD in DSM-IV-TR and the possible criteria for DSM-5. Results: Substantial evidence of the cross-cultural validity of PTSD was found. However, evidence of cross-cultural variability in certain areas suggests the need for further research: the relative salience of avoidance/numbing symptoms, the role of the interpretation of trauma-caused symptoms in shaping symptomatology, and the prevalence of somatic symptoms. This review also indicates the need to modify certain criteria, such as the items on distressing dreams and on foreshortened future, to increase their cross-cultural applicability. Text additions are suggested to increase the applicability of the manual across cultural contexts: specifying that cultural syndromes—such as those indicated in the DSM-IV-TR Glossary—may be a prominent part of the trauma response in certain cultures, and that those syndromes may influence PTSD symptom salience and comorbidity. Conclusions: The DSM-IV-TR PTSD category demonstrates various types of validity. Criteria modification and textual clarifications are suggested to further improve its cross-cultural applicability. Depression and Anxiety, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, 1Inc.

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