More Specific Definition Needed for PTSD
> 3/22/2007 10:15:43 AM

Based on clinical evidence that severely depressed patients also display many of the symptoms falling under the PTSD label, researchers believe that its definition needs to be refined in order to avoid frequently incorrect diagnoses. In a study of one hundred patients suffering from deep depression, researchers had them answer questions about whether they had experienced some of the varied symptoms of PTSD. To clarify the information given, two independent experts interviewed patients to determine which had undergone events fitting the definition of "traumatic" and whether these events might account for their present states. A majority of the study's subjects had undergone such trauma, and most of that number also qualified for PTSD diagnoses, but the study's most important finding was that an equal percentage of the patients without notable traumas could, under the current definition, be classified as suffering from PTSD. Such an overlap, experts say, has the potential to confuse treatments and render them ineffective.

After it first gained prominence while being applied to veterans returning from the Vietnam War, PTSD has increasingly been used as a diagnosis for victims of rape, abuse or tragic accidents. The significance of the current study lies in the fact that many of these patients respond differently to conventional treatments than those who are simply depressed. If we cannot effectively distinguish the two, it will be harder for doctors to administer the correct treatments to each patient. Much of the problem, according to the study's authors, stems from an overly general definition of PTSD, and a list of symptoms including insomnia, nightmares, "intrusive thoughts, emotional numbing, flashbacks and hopelessness" could very easily apply to both disorders (or a number of others).

Researchers say no clearly distinct biological differences between depression and PTSD have been established, though post-traumatic patients seem to respond differently to certain hormonal therapies. Differences, however subtle, exist between patients suffering from psychological disorders drawn from direct events and those who are clinically depressed, even though the two overlap in terms of observable symptoms and certain treatments may prove effective for both. This study suggests that we have yet to understand the intricacies of PTSD and that, in order to treat it more specifically in the future, we should immediately sponsor additional large-scale research projects with the ultimate goal of making these crucial distinctions at a time when an increasing percentage of our general population and especially our armed forces faces the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress every day.


One of the main symptoms of PTSD is intrusive memories of the trauma. I am not able to fathom how depressives who have not experienced a trauma, could have intrusive memories of their (nonexistent) trauma.Perhaps this symptom ought to be given greater consideration when evaluating PTSD.
Posted by: chiron613 4/4/2007 2:27:23 AM

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