• PTSD;
  • acute stress disorder;
  • heart rate;
  • psychophysiological arousal


This study investigated the role of acute arousal in the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Hospitalized motor vehicle accident survivors (n = 146) were assessed for acute stress disorder (ASD) within 1 month of the trauma, 6 months later, and reassessed for PTSD 2 years posttrauma (n = 87). Heart rates (HR) were assessed on the day of hospital discharge. Participants who had PTSD 2 years posttrauma had higher HR at hospital discharge than those without PTSD. A diagnosis of ASD or a resting HR of 95 beats per minute had moderate sensitivity (74%) and specificity (91%) in predicting PTSD. These findings suggest that caution is required in using acute HR as a predictor of longer-term PTSD following trauma.