New Algorithm Identifies 800-Plus Risk Factors for PTSD

woman peeking out of blindsAbout 8% of the population will experience posttraumatic stress (PTSD) at some point. Though intensely stressful events cause PTSD, not everyone who experiences trauma will develop symptoms, and the severity of PTSD dramatically varies from person to person. Early intervention after trauma can help reduce the risk of PTSD, but determining who’s at risk can prove challenging. A new algorithm aims to eliminate the mystery by applying more than 800 risk factors.

Algorithm Risk Factors for PTSD

A number of risk factors—including inadequate social support, a history of mental health issues, or experiencing multiple traumas—are associated with PTSD. The challenge is that no single risk factor means a person will absolutely experience PTSD after a trauma, and some risk factors seem to count more than others. Researchers designed a computational algorithm designed to help predict individual PTSD risk.

To test the algorithm’s value, researchers pulled data from the Jerusalem Trauma Outreach and Prevention Study, which followed 4,743 people admitted to emergency rooms following traumatic events. When researchers applied the algorithm to information gathered within 10 days of a trauma, it more accurately predicted PTSD than older models, such as listing symptoms or risk factors.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has agreed to fund more research. The study’s authors have already gotten access to 19 additional data sets designed to help them hone their algorithm.

Helping Someone Who Has Experienced a Trauma

What happens in the first few weeks after a trauma—including the accessibility of support from loved ones—can influence whether someone develops PTSD. If someone you care about has recently experienced a trauma, the following strategies may help you help him or her:

  • Believe what your loved one says about the trauma.
  • Don’t demand information your loved one isn’t yet ready to give. When he or she does provide additional details, listen without judgment.
  • Help your loved one identify specific needs, then offer assistance filling these needs. For instance, your loved one might be afraid to be alone at night. Staying with him or her could alleviate this fear.
  • Encourage your loved one to seek emotional support. can help you find a therapist who specializes in PTSD.
  • Validate your loved one’s feelings. Intense emotions are normal after a trauma, but stigmatizing these emotions can compound the trauma.


  1. Computational tool identifies 800 risk factors for PTSD. (2015, March 16). Retrieved from
  2. Helping patients cope with a traumatic event [PDF]. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. How common is PTSD? (n.d.). Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Bennett


    March 16th, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    800 plus risk factors?
    How can there then be anyone who is not at risk?

  • Kel


    March 16th, 2015 at 3:00 PM

    Why do you need an algorithm when pretty much just talking to someone can help you to determine if this is someone experiencing PTSD or not. Now I am all for looking for new and better ways to diagnose, but a mathematical algorithm seems so impersonal in a field where I think that it is all about getting to know your patient on a one on one basis. I think that diagnosing like this sort of takes some of that out of it, and for me that is sort of not what I would be looking for.

  • todD


    March 17th, 2015 at 10:34 AM

    If you ever need to be a friend it would be to someone who has gone through some sort of traumatic experience. This is going to be a person who desperately needs to share what is happening in their life with someone who will understand, and you could very well be that person that they need at this time in their life.
    It’s had, I get that, because too often I think that we are afraid that we will say or do the wrong thing. But what you should know is that more often than not, this is not a person who needs advice, they just need to know that you are there for them in their time of crisis and pain.



    March 23rd, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    It would be nice if we all had someone in our lives that we know we could turn to if there was a traumatic event that happened in our lives… but the reality is that not all of us have this and sometimes it can be very hard to get someone to help or even listen if they don’t know you that well or are not that close to you.

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