Are traumatic events necessary to elicit symptoms of posttraumatic stress?


A diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been conceptualized as being precipitated by a particularly traumatic stressor (e.g., combat exposure, rape, and violent assault). Recent research suggests that common stressful events (e.g., relational problems, divorce, and expected death of a loved one) may also be capable of eliciting posttraumatic symptomatology. The current study replicated and extended these previous findings, examining three groups of event exposure: those who reported experiencing only traumatic events in the past year, those who reported experiencing only significant stressful life events in the last year, and those who experienced both types of events. Consistent with previous findings, we found that all three groups of event exposure, including those experiencing only stressful life events, experienced similar amounts of PTSD symptomatology across symptom clusters. These data add to the growing literature that suggests that the type of events that cause symptoms of PTSD may be broader than the current diagnostic criteria indicate, and as such calls for more rigorous research in this area to better understand the diagnostic implications of these findings.


Jordan S. Robinson
Christine L Larson