Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 195–212 | Cite as

Predictors of chronic stress among Vietnam veterans: Stressor exposure and intrusive recall

  • Laura M. Davidson
  • Andrew Baum


The present study examined the relationship between military service during the Vietnam era and chronic stress among Vietnam combat veterans, noncombat military controls, and nonmilitary age-mates. Psychological, behavioral, and biochemical indices of stress were assessed. Results demonstrated that exposure to combat was not associated with symptoms of chronic stress. However, reported intrusiveness of recalled imagery associated with stressful combat events was an important predictor of long-term symptoms of stress irrespective of combat exposure. In addition, the interaction of combat exposure and intrusive thinking was significantly related to symptoms of chronic stress. These data suggest that intrusive thinking may reflect an important individual difference variable that could help predict long-term responding to stressors.

Key words

stress combat intrusive thoughts PTSD 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adamec, R. E. and Stark-Adamec, C. (1986). Limbic hyperfunction, limbic epilepsy, and intevictal behavior: Models and methods of detection. In Doane, B. K., and Livingston, K. E. (eds.),The Limbic System: Functional Organization and Clinical Disorders, Raven Press, NY, pp. 129–145.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association (1987).Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (third ed.-revised) (DSM-111-R). Washington, D.C.: Author.Google Scholar
  3. Amick-McMullen, A., Kilpatrick, D. G., Veronen, L., and Smith, S. (1989). Family survivors of homicide victims: Theoretical perspectives and an exploratory study.J. Traum. Stress 2: 21–35.Google Scholar
  4. Anisman, H., and Zacharko, R. M. (1982). Depression: The predisposing influence of stress.Behav. Brain Sci. 5: 89–99.Google Scholar
  5. Baum, A. (1987). Toxins, technology, and natural disasters. In VandenBos, G. R., and Bryant, B. K. (eds.),Cataclysms, Crises, and Catastrophes: Psychology in Action, American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., pp. 9–53.Google Scholar
  6. Baum, A., Fleming, R., and Singer, J. E. (1983). Coping with victimization by technological disaster.J. Social Issues 39: 117–138.Google Scholar
  7. Baum, A., Gatchel, R. J., and Schaeffer, M. A. (1983). Emotional, behavioral, and physiological effects of chronic stress at Three Mile Island.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 54: 303–308.Google Scholar
  8. Baum, A., O'Keefe, M., and Davidson, L. (1990). Acute stressors and chronic response: The case of traumatic stress.J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 20(20): 1643–1654.Google Scholar
  9. Blanchard, E. B., Kolb, L. C., Pallmeyer, T. P., and Gerardi, R. J. (1982). Psychophysiological study of post-traumatic stress disorders in Vietnam veterans.Psychiatr. Quart. 54: 220–227.Google Scholar
  10. Brill, N. O., and Beebe, G. W. (1951). Follow-up study of psychoneuroses.Am. J. Psychiatr. 108: 417–420.Google Scholar
  11. Bulman, R. J., and Wortman, C. B. (1977). Attribution of blame and coping in the “real world”: Severe accident victims react to their lot.J. Personal. Social Psychol. 35: 351–363.Google Scholar
  12. Cohen, J., and Cohen, P. (1983).Applied Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, (second edition), Hillsdale, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  13. Davidson, L. M., and Baum, A. (1986). Chronic stress and post-traumatic stress disorders.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 54: 303–308.Google Scholar
  14. Delongis, A., Coyne, J. C., Dakof, G., Folkman, S., and Lazarus, R. S. (1982). Relationship of daily hassles, uplifts, and major life events to health status. In Stone, G. C. (ed.),Health Psychology, 1.Google Scholar
  15. Derogatis, L. R. (1977).SCL-90-R: Administration Scoring and Procedures Manual 1, Clinical Psychometrics Research, Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  16. Durret, L., and Zeiger, M. (1980). A sensitive radioenzymatic assay for catechol drugs.J. Neurosci. Res. 5: 587–598.Google Scholar
  17. Figley, C. R. (1978). Psychosocial adjustment among Vietnam veterans: An overview of the research. In Figley, C. R. (ed.),Stress Disorders Among Vietnam Veterans, Brunner/Mazel, New York, pp. 57–70.Google Scholar
  18. Gallops, M., Laufer, R. S., and Yeager, T. (1981). Revised combat scale. In Laufer, R. S., Yeager, T., Frey-Wouters, E., and Donnelan, J. (eds.),Legacies of Vietnam, Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, p. 125.Google Scholar
  19. Glass, D. C., and Singer, J. E. (1972).Urban Stress: Experiments on Noise and Social Stressors, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  20. Green, B., Lindy, J., Grace, M., Gleser, G., Leonard, A., Korol, M., and Winget, C. (1990). Buffalo Creek survivors in the second decade: Stability of stress symptoms.Am. J. Orthopsychiatr. 60: 43–54.Google Scholar
  21. Hartsough, D., and Myers, D. G. (1985).Disaster Work and Mental Health, National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, MD.Google Scholar
  22. Hedges, S. M., Krantz, D. S., Contrada, R. J., Okin, S. R., and Rozanski, A. R. (1992).J. Psychopathol. Behav. Assess. Google Scholar
  23. Helzer, J. E., Robins, L. N., and McEvoy, L. (1987). Post-traumatic stress disorder in the general population. Findings of the epidemiologic catchment area survey.New Engl. J. Med. 317: 1630–1634.Google Scholar
  24. Horowitz, M., Wilner, N., and Alvarez, W. (1979). Impact of event scale: A measure of subjective stress.Psychom. Med. 41: 209–218.Google Scholar
  25. Hurst, A. F. (1940).Medical Disorders of War, Edward Arnold, London. Janoff-Bulman, R., and Frieze, I. H. (1983). A theoretical perspective for understanding reactions to victimization.J. Social Issues 39: 1–17.Google Scholar
  26. Kant, G. J., Eggleston, T., Landman-Roberts, L., Kenion, C. C., Driver, G. C., and Meyerhoff, J. L. (1985). Habituation to repeated stress is stressor specific.Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 22: 631–6334.Google Scholar
  27. Kilpatrick, D. G., and Veronen, L. (1984). Treatment of fear and anxiety in victims of rape. Cited in Amick-McMullenet al. 1989,J. Traum. Stress 2: 21–35.Google Scholar
  28. Kolb, L. C., Burris, B. C., and Griffiths, S. (1984). Propranolol and clonidine in treatment of the chronic post-traumatic stress disorders of war. In Van Der Kolk, B. A. (ed.),Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Psychological and Biological Sequelae, American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  29. Kosten, T. R., Mason, J. W., Giller, E. L., Ostroff, R. B., and Harkness, L. (1985). Sustained urinary norepinephrine and epinephrine.Psychoneuroendocrinology 12: 13–20.Google Scholar
  30. Kulka, R., Schlenger, W., Fairbank, J., Hough, R., Jordan, B., Marmar, C., and Weiss, P. (1988, August).Assessment of the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in a community epidemiological study: The national Vietnam veterans readjustment study, Paper presented at American Psychological Association annual meeting. Atlanta, Georgia.Google Scholar
  31. Lazarus, R. S. (1966). Some principles of psychological stress and their relation to dentistry.J. Dent. Res. 45: 1620–1626.Google Scholar
  32. Lazarus, R. S., and Cohen, J. B. (1977). Environmental stress. In Aetman, I., and Wohlwill, J. F. (eds.),Human Behavior and the Environment. Current Theory and Research, (Vol. 2), Plenum, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Lazarus, R. S., and Folkman, S. (eds.) (1984).Stress Appraisal and Coping, Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Lipper, S., Davidson, NRT, Grady, A. Edinger, J., Hammett, E. B., Mahorney, S. L., and Cavenar, J. O. (1986). Preliminary study of carbamazepine in post traumatic stress disorder.Psychosomatics 27: 849–854.Google Scholar
  35. Maida, C. A., Gordon, N. S., Steinberg, A., and Gordon, G. (1989). Psychosocial impact of disasters: Victims of the Baldwin Hills Fire.J. Traum. Stress 2: 37–48.Google Scholar
  36. Malloy, P. F., Fairbank, J. A., and Keane, T. M. (1983). Validation of a multimethod assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam veterans.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 4: 488–494.Google Scholar
  37. Mazor, A., Gampel, Y., Enright, R. D., and Orenstein, R. (1990). Holocaust survivors: Coping with post-traumatic memories in childhood and 40 years later.J. Traum. Stress 3: 1–14.Google Scholar
  38. Pennebaker, J. W., Hughes, C. F., and O'Heeron, R. C. (1987). The psychophysiology of confession: Linking inhibitory and psychosomatic processes.J. Personal. Social Psychol. 52: 781–793.Google Scholar
  39. Presidential Review Memorandum on Vietnam-era veterans (1978). U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs (1979). 96th Congress, first session, released October 10. Washington, DC: House Committee Print No. 388, pp. 11–33.Google Scholar
  40. Pontius, A. A. (1990). Infanticide in limbic psychotic trigger reaction in a man with Jacksonian and Petit Mal seizures: Kindling by traumatic experiences.Psychological Rep. 67: 935–945.Google Scholar
  41. Van der Ploeg, H., and Kleijn, W. C. (1989). Being held hostage in the Netherlands: A study of long-term aftereffects.J. Traum. Stress 2: 153–170.Google Scholar
  42. Selye, H. (1936). A syndrome produced by diverse nocuous agents.Nature (London) 138: 32.Google Scholar
  43. Selye, H. (1956, 1976).The Stress of Life, McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  44. Solomon, Z. (1989). A 3-year prospective study of post traumatic stress disorder in Israeli combat veterans.J. Traum. Stress 2: 59–74.Google Scholar
  45. Steinglass, P., and Gerrity, E. (1990). Natural disasters and post-traumatic stress disorder: Short-term versus long-term recovery in two disaster communities.J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 20(21): 1746–1765.Google Scholar
  46. Symonds, C. P. (1943). The human response to flying stress.Brit. Med. J. 2: 703–710.Google Scholar
  47. Thomas, J. C. (1943). Neuroses in war time.J. Vancouver Med. Assoc. 19: 136.Google Scholar
  48. van der Kolk, B., Greenberg, M., Boyd, H., and Krystal, J. (1985). Inescapable shock, neurotransmitters and addiction to trauma: Toward a psychobiology of post-traumatic stress.Biol. Psychiatry 20: 314–325.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura M. Davidson
    • 1
  • Andrew Baum
    • 1
  1. 1.F. Edward Hebert School of MedicineUniformed Services University of the Health SciencesBethesda

Personalised recommendations