PTSD and Key Somatic Complaints and Cultural Syndromes among Rural Cambodians: The Results of a Needs Assessment Survey

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Abstract

This article describes a culturally sensitive assessment tool for traumatized Cambodians, the Cambodian “Somatic Symptom and Syndrome Inventory” (SSI), and reports the outcome of a needs assessment conducted in rural Cambodia using the instrument. Villagers locally identified (N = 139) as still suffering the effects of the Pol Pot genocide were evaluated. All 139 had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as assessed by the PTSD Checklist (PCL), and they had elevated SSI scores. The severity of the SSI items varied by level of PTSD severity, and several items—for example, dizziness, dizziness on standing, khyâl (a windlike substance) attacks, and “thinking a lot”—were extremely elevated in those participants with higher levels of PTSD. The SSI was more highly correlated to self-perceived health (Short Form Health Survey–3) and past trauma events (Harvard Trauma Questionnaire) than was the PCL. The study shows the SSI items to be a core aspect of the Cambodian trauma ontology.

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