Fear, helplessness, and horror in posttraumatic stress disorder: Investigating DSM-IV Criterion A2 in victims of violent crime

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Abstract

A DSM-IV diagnosis posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) required for the first time that individuals must report experiencing intense fear, helplessness, or horror at the time of the trauma. In a longitudinal study of 138 victims of violent crime, we investigated whether reports of intense trauma-related emotions characterized individuals who, after 6 months, met criteria for PTSD according to the DSM-III-R. We found that intense levels of all 3 emotions strongly predicted later PTSD. However, a small number of those who later met DSM-III-R or ICD criteria for PTSD did not report intense emotions at the time of the trauma. They did, however, report high levels of either anger with others or shame.

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