Distinct Trauma Types in Military Service Members Seeking Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

For the STRONG STAR Consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We examined the frequency of trauma types reported in a cohort of service members seeking treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and compared symptom profiles between types. In this observational study, 999 service members (9.2% women; Mage = 32.91 years; 55.6% White) were evaluated using a standardized assessment procedure to determine eligibility for clinical trials. Participants were evaluated for DSM-IV-TR-defined PTSD using the PTSD Symptom Scale–Interview; all participants reported a Criterion A event. Independent evaluators rated descriptions of Criterion A events as belonging to trauma types at a high degree of reliability, κ = 0.80. Aggregated non-life-threat primary trauma types were more frequently endorsed than aggregated life-threat types, 95% CI [17.10%, 29.20%]. Participants who endorsed moral injury–self traumas had a higher level of reexperiencing (d = 0.39), guilt (hindsight bias, d = 1.06; wrongdoing, d = 0.93), and self-blame (d = 0.58) symptoms, relative to those who reported life threat–self. Participants who experienced traumatic loss had greater reexperiencing (d = 0.39), avoidance (d = 0.22), guilt (responsibility, d = 0.39), and greater peri- and posttraumatic sadness (d = 0.84 and d = 0.70, respectively) symptoms, relative to those who endorsed life threat–self. Relative to life threat–self, moral injury–others was associated with greater peri- (d = 0.36) and posttraumatic (d = 0.33) betrayal/humiliation symptoms, and endorsement of aftermath of violence was associated with greater peri- (d = 0.84) and posttraumatic sadness (d = 0.57) symptoms. War zone traumas were heterogeneous, and non-life-threat traumas were associated with distinct symptoms and problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-295
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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