Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in emotionally distressed individuals referred for a depression prevention intervention: relationship to problem-solving skills


J. Kasckow, MD, PhD, VA Pittsburgh MIRECC and Behavioral Health, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. E-mail:



This study examined the rates of syndromal and subthreshold post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and PTSD symptom scores in participants with symptoms of emotional distress, subsyndromal depression, and a history of traumatic exposure. Participants had been referred to a study of an indicated depression prevention intervention using problem-solving therapy in primary care. We hypothesized that higher severity of PTSD symptom scores would predict poorer problem-solving skills. In addition, some reports have suggested that there are higher rates of PTSD in minority populations relative to Caucasians; thus we hypothesized that race would also predict problem-solving skills in these individuals.


We examined the rates of traumatic exposure, syndromal, and subthreshold PTSD. In those exposed to trauma, we performed a multiple linear regression to examine the effects of PTSD symptoms, depression symptoms, race, age, and gender on social problem-solving skills.


Of the 244 participants, 64 (26.2%) reported a traumatic event; 6/234 (2.6%) had syndromal PTSD, and 14/234 (6.0%) had subthreshold PTSD. By way of regression analysis, higher PTSD symptom scores predicted poorer problem-solving skills. In addition, racial status (Caucasian vs. African American) predicted problem-solving skills; Caucasians exhibited lower levels of problem-solving skills.


Individuals presenting with subsyndromal depressive symptoms may also have a history of traumatic exposure, subthreshold and syndromal PTSD. Thus, screening these individuals for PTSD symptoms is important and may inform clinical management decisions because problem-solving skills are lower in those with more severe PTSD symptoms (even after adjusting for race, age, gender, and depressive symptoms). Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.