Psychological Injury and Law

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 89–99

Toward a Typology of High-Risk Major Stressful Events and Situations in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Related Psychopathology

Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12207-010-9072-1

Cite this article as:
Dohrenwend, B.P. Psychol. Inj. and Law (2010) 3: 89. doi:10.1007/s12207-010-9072-1

Abstract

The diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was introduced in 1980 with the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Third Edition (DSM-III). DSM-III put forward a novel syndrome consisting of intrusive, avoidance/numbing, and arousal symptoms as distinctive psychopathology following exposure to traumatic events. The traumatic stressors, although expanded in later editions published in 1987 (DSM-III-R) and 1994 (DSM-IV), focus on life-threatening events and situations. However, at least 12 studies, most of them recent, have found associations between the PTSD symptoms and the PTSD symptom syndrome with stressors, such as unemployment and divorce that would not qualify, even in the broadened DSM-IV diagnosis, as traumatic stressors. These findings challenge the basic assumption on which the PTSD diagnosis is based, the assumption that exposure to life-threatening stressors is the primary cause of a unique set of stress response symptoms. The purpose of this paper is to show how to confront this challenge by developing a typology of stressful situations and events that can be tested systematically for their relation to the PTSD symptom syndrome and other relevant variables. The typology includes but is not limited to the types of situations and events defined as “traumatic” in the DSMs.

Keywords

PTSDStressorDSM-IIIDSM-IV

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.New York State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA