Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptom Profiles in Men and Women

Ben Green


Curr Med Res Opin. 2003;19(3) 

In This Article

Summary and Introduction

Objective: To investigate the symptom frequencies of a relatively large sample of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers and compare male and female symptom profiles.
Research Design and Methods: A total of 103 consecutive attendees at a clinic for PTSD were examined using a checklist of DSM-IV PTSD characteristics. The presence and absence of all symptoms was evaluated in a research interview. Some additional symptoms were also routinely asked about, such as mood lability, substance use, sex drive or libido. Symptom profiles of male and female sufferers of PTSD were compared using the chi-squared statistical test.
Main Outcome Measures: Structured interview using checklist of DSM-IV PTSD characteristics.
Results: Certain symptoms were present in more than 30% of sufferers. Symptom frequencies for anxiety, insomnia, distressing and recurrent dreams, flashback imagery and intrusive thoughts, irritability, poor concentration, avoidance behaviour and detachment all reached frequencies above 70%. Some symptoms (such as inability to recall parts of the trauma and restricted affect) occurred in no more than 35% of sufferers.
Conclusions: Men are significantly more likely than women to suffer with irritability (p < 0.05) and to use alcohol to excess (p < 0.05). Symptoms tend to follow an acute stress reaction, occur early and persist for many months. A case is made for restricting the diagnosis to the most prevalent symptoms and for including some often overlooked symptoms in the diagnostic guidelines, namely low mood, mood lability, and impaired libido.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD may affect some 2-3% of the general population at any one time.[1,2] It is a relatively commonplace mental disorder, more prevalent than schizophrenia (0.5%), but less prevalent than major depression (5-10%). It is also relatively persistent, lasting a year or more. Severe cases of PTSD may be extremely long-lasting, once established. Survivors of war trauma in World War II combat veterans from the Pacific arena (some of whom had been Japanese prisoners of war), when interviewed in the 1990s had high prevalence rates for PTSD.[3] Among the prisoner of war survivors, 70% fulfilled the criteria for a current diagnosis and 78% for a lifetime diagnosis of PTSD, compared to 18% and 29%, respectively, of the combat veterans.

PTSD therefore accounts for considerable morbidity within the population and deserves greater research scrutiny.

PTSD as a disorder or entity has been variously recognised through the years, but has only relatively recently been characterised in terms of criteria in classifications systems such as the DSM.

This paper seeks to examine symptom profiles in over 100 cases of PTSD. Relatively few studies have considered this. The current study was designed to look at well-recognised PTSD symptoms, co-morbid symptoms and some less well-recognised symptoms.