PTSD symptoms and dominant emotional response to a traumatic event:an examination of DSM-IV Criterion A2.Anxiety Stress Coping. 2010 Jan; 23(1):119-26.AS
To qualify for a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) requires that individuals report experiencing dominant emotions of fear, helplessness, and horror during the trauma (Criterion A2). Despite this stipulation, traumatic events can elicit a myriad of emotions other than fear, such as anger, guilt or shame, sadness, and numbing. The present study examined which emotional reactions to a stressful event in a college student sample are associated with the highest levels of PTSD symptoms. Our results suggest mixed support for the DSM-IV criteria. Although, participants who experienced a dominant emotion of fear reported relatively high PTSD symptomatology, participants who experience danger, disgust-related emotions, and sadness reported PTSD symptoms of equivalent severity. Additionally, participants reported dominant emotions of sadness and other emotions (including disgust, guilt, and shame) more frequently than they reported fear. These results question the specifics of diagnostic Criterion A2 and may have diagnostic and treatment implications.