Prisoners and PTSD


How is imprisonment related to risk of 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, including the severity and type of exposure, can affect the risk of developing PTSD. Personal characteristics such as age and sex also influence risk.

What is the evidence for imprisonment and risk of PTSD?

High quality evidence finds a medium-sized association between increased number of traumatic events in prison (e.g., victimisation, abuse, solitary confinement, coercion) and increased PTSD symptoms.

Moderate quality evidence finds the prevalence of PTSD in adolescents in detention centres is 8.6% for males and 18.2% for females.

August 2021

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Last updated at: 12:25 am, 12th October 2021
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