PTSD Symptom Severity, but Not Trauma Type, Predicts Mental Health Help-seeking in the Military

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Although veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been reported to have high rates of inadequate treatment, to our knowledge this is the first study to evaluate associations between each individual PTSD symptom and treatment-seeking, and the first PTSD help-seeking study to evaluate variables across all—rather than specific—types of trauma.


This case-control study surveyed a consecutive sample of active duty military outpatients with trauma histories (N=211), comparing those attending voluntary mental health services (help-seeking cases, n=128) or mandatory dental services required for all active duty personnel (general military population controls, n=83). We used logistic regression to estimate associations between help-seeking and demographics, PTSD symptoms, trauma type, suicide attempts, substance use problems, and chronic pain, with each variable adjusted for sex, age, and race.


Significant associations were found between help-seeking and PTSD diagnosis (adjusted odds ratio=4.15, P<0.001) and between help-seeking and severities of PTSD symptoms (total, clusters, all individual symptoms except recklessness; each adjusted odds ratio>1, P<0.05).


In this clinical sample, a clear positive relationship was found between help-seeking and PTSD symptom severity, but not with trauma type, suicide attempts, substance use problems, or pain, after adjusting for multiple testing. Possible explanations and implications of these findings are discussed.

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