Detecting Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in its early stages is crucial in getting the proper diagnosis and treatment. Researchers are continually researching the predictors of PTSD in order to help victims as soon as possible.
Cognitive Models Assist Early Intervention
Researcher Birgit Kleim of London’s Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College found that cognitive models were successful in predicting the onset of PTSD. In her study, she analyzed the symptoms of 222 people who had suffered an assault only two weeks prior. She evaluated them again six months later to check if the cognitive models had accurately diagnosed the individual. Her study included assessing the following in the assault victims:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Reactions to stress
- Cognitive processing related to symptoms
- Personal interpretation of stressful situations
When patients were re-evaluated 6 months later, Dr. Kleim found that the cognitive models had accurately predicted the risk for PTSD. The cognitive models also more accurately predicted future mental health disorders better than other predictive measures.
Another psychologist, Dr. Bunmi O. Olatunji of Vanderbilt University, analyzed the emotional sensitivity of trauma victims in order to determine their risks for PTSD. In his study of war veterans who had suffered trauma, he categorized sensitivities between anxiety sensitivity and disgust sensitivity. Individuals with anxiety sensitivity have fears of a circumstance, place, or condition which they find harmful. Those with disgust anxiety suffer the recall of repulsive and disgusting images associated with their trauma. War creates horrible images that leave traumatic visual scars among veterans. Dr. Olatunji recorded the type of emotional sensitivity and levels of PTSD of 21 soldiers with PTSD, 16 soldiers without PTSD, and 16 civilians without PTSD. Soldiers with PTSD were shown to have the highest anxiety sensitivity levels. Soldiers without PTSD had the lowest disgust sensitivity levels. Dr. Olatunji noticed that veterans who had a low level of disgust sensitivity were more resilient against developing PTSD. Olatunji did not conclude whether emotional sensitivity was a cause or effect of trauma, but he believes that future research on emotional sensitivity can reveal better ways of early treatment for those who suffer from PTSD.
A Quick Diagnosis Leads to a Swifter Recovery
Both Kleim and Olatunji agree that the earliest predictors of PTSD risk are invaluable. The sooner the symptoms are accurately diagnosed, the sooner doctors can begin to properly treat their patients. Kleim found that cognitive models could accurately predict which trauma sufferer would fall victim to the flashbacks, fear, feelings of lack of control, and all the other symptoms of PTSD. Many trauma victims may go by the label of having PTSD, but each individual has his own type of trauma, his own symptoms, and his own level of resilience. Through further studies, researchers can better assess individuals for their risk of PTSD and intervene with treatment immediately.