Different Types of Combat Experiences and Associated Symptoms in OEF and OIF National Guard and Reserve Veterans

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Abstract

Objective: It is well established that exposure to combat is a risk factor for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The experiences of military personnel serving in combat zones vary widely however, leading to increased attention to the impact of different types of combat trauma. The present study examined the relationships among 3 conceptually based categories of combat exposure with 4 PTSD symptom clusters (reexperiencing, avoidance, numbing, and hyperarousal) and symptoms of guilt, depression, and anxiety. Method: Participants were 206 National Guard and Reserve members who had recently returned from deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Results: As hypothesized, findings from a multivariate multiple linear regression analysis showed that exposure to personal life threat predicted symptoms of hyperarousal, and exposure to death or severe injury of others predicted symptoms of depression. Hypotheses that personal life threat would predict anxiety symptoms, exposure to death or injury of others would predict numbing, and having killed would predict guilt were not supported. Conclusions: The relative degree of exposure to life threat and death/loss events in a war-zone may impact the development of different types of symptoms. These findings highlight the importance of considering different types of trauma exposure in future research.

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