Abuse and violence

Are abuse and violence risk factors for PTSD?

Exposure to at least one trauma is required for a diagnosis of PTSD. The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) determines direct traumas as threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. Indirect traumas include witnessing the trauma, or learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma. Differences in trauma characteristics, along with differences in personal characteristics, may affect the risk of developing PTSD.

What is the evidence for abuse and violence and risk for PTSD?

Moderate to high quality evidence found a large association between exposure to sexual assault and subsequent PTSD-related conditions. There were medium-sized increases in PTSD symptoms following exposure to bullying, racism, and childhood sexual or physical abuse. There were no significant associations between PTSD and neglect or witnessing interpersonal violence in childhood.

Moderate quality evidence found a medium-sized association between victimisation from intimate partner violence and PTSD, and a small association between perpetration of intimate partner violence and PTSD. These associations were similar for males and females.

Moderate to high quality evidence found a small association between greater level of exposure to mass shootings (closer proximity, longer duration) and increased PTSD symptoms in those exposed.

August 2021

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Last updated at: 2:41 am, 8th October 2021
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Fact Sheet Technical Commentary

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