New research on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers challenges popular assumptions about the origins and trajectory of PTSD, providing evidence that traumatic experiences in childhood – not combat – may predict which soldiers develop the disorder.
Psychological scientist Dorthe Berntsen of Aarhus University in Denmark and a team of Danish and American researchers wanted to understand why some soldiers develop PTSD but others don’t. They also wanted to develop a clearer understanding of how the symptoms of the disorder progress.
“Most studies on PTSD in soldiers following service in war zones do not include measures of PTSD symptoms prior to deployment and thus suffer from a baseline problem. Only a few studies have examined pre- to post-deployment changes in PTSD symptoms, and most only use a single before-and-after measure,” says Berntsen.
The findings challenge the notion that exposure to combat and other war atrocities is the main cause of PTSD.
“We were surprised that stressful experiences during childhood seemed to play such a central role in discriminating the resilient versus non-resilient groups,” says Berntsen. “These results should make psychologists question prevailing assumptions about PTSD and its development.”
[Note from Mom Psych: The really surprising thing is that the researchers were surprised. Other researchers have long known that secure attachment in childhood supports resilience (against the effects of stress as well as trauma), and that differences in resilience help explain why some people succumb to mental health issues later in life and others don't.] See also: http://www.mom-psych.com/Articles/Trauma-and-Resilience/What-Is-Resilience-GS1001.html