Many individuals who experience a trauma only have minor problems as a result of the event, but became hyper-sensitive because of the experience and are unable to cope adequately with subsequent stressful life events (SLE). This can eventually lead to the development of post traumatic symptoms many months or years after the trauma occurs. “If increases in symptoms associated with late-onset PTSD are substantial, late-onset PTSD may be expected to lead to increases in mental health services (MHS) utilization, a consequence that has not been investigated before,” said Geert E. Smid, of the Foundation Centrum ’45, Diemen, in The Netherlands. “Furthermore, relevant post-event factors associated with late-onset PTSD included stressors such as stressful life events, persistent financial and medical problems and chronic pain, as well as lower perceived social support,” Smid said of data collected from previous studies. Smid and colleagues from throughout The Netherlands conducted a study to determine the prevalence of late-onset PTSD in survivors of a devastating fireworks explosion in Enschede in May of 2000. The disaster killed 22 people, injured over 1000, and left 1,200 people homeless, forcing them to find new accommodations for years while their properties were rebuilt.
Using this pool of people, the researchers assessed over 600 people three weeks after the disaster, 18 months after, and again four years after the explosion. They said, “In our sample of residents exposed to a large-scale disaster, we found late-onset PTSD to occur in 4% of study participants four years later, equaling 22% of those meeting criteria for PTSD at 18 months and/or four years post disaster.” They added, “Because SLE following disaster exposure are associated with late-onset PTSD, foreseeable stressors in the aftermath of a disaster may be a target for secondary prevention of late-onset PTSD. Agencies should therefore focus their efforts on facilitating and supporting restorative activities in order to counteract or prevent these stressors.”
Smid, G. E., van der Velden, P. G., Gersons, B. P. R., & Kleber, R. J. (2011, May 23). Late-Onset Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Following a Disaster: A Longitudinal Study. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0023868
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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