Intentional vs. unintentional traumas

What are trauma characteristics?

For a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, exposure to at least one trauma is required. Traumas as determined by the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) include being exposed to threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. Examples include directly being involved in the trauma, witnessing the trauma, or learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma.

Intentional traumas are those that involve the deliberate infliction of harm, while unintentional exposures are those that are not planned. Differences in trauma characteristics, along with differences in personal characteristics, may affect one’s risk of developing PTSD.

What is the evidence for PTSD in people exposed to intentional versus unintentional traumas?

Moderate quality evidence finds the median prevalence of PTSD after exposure to unintentional trauma decreases over time, from around 30% at one-month post-trauma to around 14% by 12 months post-trauma, while prevalence post-intentional trauma exposure increases over time (1-12 months 12% to 23%).

August 2021

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Last updated at: 12:39 am, 6th August 2021
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