Intentional vs. unintentional traumas

How are intentional and unintentional traumas related to 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.

Intentional traumas are those that involve the deliberate infliction of harm, while unintentional exposures are those that are not planned.

What is the evidence regarding intentional and unintentional traumas and risk of PTSD?

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: 12:18 am, 12th October 2021
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