A prospective study of the onset of PTSD symptoms in the first month after trauma exposure

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The course of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in the month after trauma exposure has not been determined adequately. Symptom group C (avoidance/numbing) has been identified retrospectively as a marker for PTSD, but prospective studies are needed to determine whether these symptoms can provide substantially earlier identification of those who will have PTSD 1 month after trauma exposure.


We evaluated 42 patients hospitalized for traumatic injuries over the first post-injury month to track development of posttraumatic symptoms.


Symptoms emerged rapidly, with group B (intrusion) and group D (hyperarousal) symptoms occurring earlier than group C symptoms. At 1 week, group C criteria accurately predicted who would develop PTSD by 1 month, and by 2 weeks, group C criteria also predicted who would not develop PTSD by 1 month.


The findings, if replicated, may permit earlier identification of PTSD and more timely, appropriate treatment.

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