New Study Examines Predictors of PTSD and Depression After Trauma

Experiencing a traumatic event can cause an individual to develop significant mental health problems, most commonly posttraumatic stress or depression. Many times, individuals who have been exposed to trauma develop varying degrees of both of these issues. Early detection is critical for diagnosis and treatment. In a recent study, Birgit Kleim of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College in London examined the specific factors used in cognitive models designed to assess PTSD and depression to determine their validity and predictive accuracy.

Because depression and PTSD are characterized by identifying the presence of different symptoms, it is important that clinicians treating trauma survivors accurately assess a client’s condition after the trauma to provide essential and tailored treatment. In this most recent study, Kleim assessed reaction to stress, interpretation of stressful situations, and cognitive processing in relation to symptoms. Specifically, Kleim looked at feelings of hopelessness in relation to depressive symptoms and suppression and rumination in relation to symptoms of PTSD. The study evaluated 222 individuals for symptom presence 2 weeks after they survived an assault. Six months later, the participants were again evaluated to determine accuracy of diagnoses.

Kleim found that the survivors’ symptoms, determined by the cognitive models 2 weeks after the trauma, were indeed predictive of the later diagnosis of PTSD or depression. Additionally, the cognitive models were able to more accurately predict future mental health prognoses than other measures. Even with the variance in symptoms found in the participants with depression over the course of the 6 months, the initial prediction was still quite reliable. Kleim believes that these results underscore the importance of identifying cognitive variables as quickly as possible in individuals who experience trauma. “Identification of trauma survivors at risk for the development of depression or PTSD may thus be further improved by focusing on such model-derived cognitive features.” Kleim added, “Given that the majority of trauma survivors with posttrauma psychopathology are not treated, the possibility of identifying survivors at risk, and the prospect of offering those with particular cognitive profiles specific prevention or intervention programs, appears promising.”

Kleim, B., Ehlers, A., & Glucksman, E. (2012, January 23). Investigating Cognitive Pathways to Psychopathology: Predicting Depression and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder From Early Responses After Assault. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027006

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  • Harold


    January 27th, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    Wonderful to know that there are now indicators of how some people will respond to trauma. If PTSD and depression are like other things in life, I think that we all know that early detection is the key to not only helping stave off future episodes but also to hopefully make their experiences that they may currently be having not quite as painful to endure.

  • Kim Kelley

    Kim Kelley

    January 28th, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    OK so we have better indicators for who is going to develop PTSD… does this mean they now have better treatment options for them too?

  • Carson Shelley

    Carson Shelley

    January 29th, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    I am always curious about what makes some people tick and what causes some to handle pain in such a straightforward manner and why some develop all kinds of issues that do not allow them to handle the traumatic events in life. I would love to know if researchers think that this is a genetic trait or if it is something that was learned in the home from a very early age.

  • kennedy


    January 29th, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    the topic of trauma has always intrigued is it that even a short incident or event can change the life of a person.does it have anything to do with how ‘vulnerable’ a person is at the given time?moreover does it depend on the person himself?you know,a very sensitive person could be traumatized with something that would not have any effect on some other person!

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