The relations between posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and disorder of extreme stress (not otherwise specified) symptoms following war captivity

Gadi Zerach*, Zahava Solomon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: War captivity is a recognized pathogenic agent for both posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and disorder of extreme stress not otherwise specified (DESNOS) symptoms, also known as Complex PTSD. However, the relationship between the two disorders remains unclear. While some scholars assume that the two diagnoses are overlapping and share the same predictors, others believe that the two diagnoses are relatively independent and differ in phenomenology and functional impairment. This study aims to assess both PTSD and DESNOS symptoms and their inter-relations among ex-prisoners of war (ex-POWs) and matched controls, 35 years after the end of the war. Method: The sample included two groups of male Israeli veterans from the 1973 Yom Kippur War: ex-POWs (n = 176) and comparable veterans who had not been held captive (n = 118). PTSD and DESNOS symptoms, battlefield and captivity stressors, and ways of coping in captivity were assessed using self-report questionnaires in 2008. Results: Ex-POWs reported a higher number of PTSD symptoms and higher rates of PTSD symptoms that fill criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD than controls. Furthermore, ex-POWs reported a higher number of DESNOS symptom clusters and higher rates of DESNOS symptoms that fill criteria for the diagnosis of DESNOS. Moreover, we found positive relationships between PTSD symptom clusters and DESNOS symptom clusters. Finally, weight loss and mental suffering in captivity, loss of emotional control and total number of DESNOS symptoms predicted total number of PTSD symptoms. However, only the total number of PTSD symptoms predicted the total number of DESNOS symptoms. Conclusions: This study demonstrated the heavy and extensive toll of war captivity, three decades after the ex-POWs' release from captivity. Importantly, approaching the publication of DSM-5, this study depicts both the high number of DESNOS symptom clusters alongside PTSD symptoms and highlights the complex relationship between the two diagnostic entities. Thus, DESNOS characteristics might be viewed as associated features of PTSD but also that the symptoms of PTSD are the core foundations of DESNOS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-156
Number of pages9
JournalIsrael Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences
Volume50
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014

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