VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle/Tacoma, WA, United States; University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Seattle, WA, United States; University of Washington School of Public Health, Department of Health Services, Seattle, WA, United States. Electronic address: [Email]
Research has described the association between lifetime trauma exposure and psychiatric symptoms among various cohorts, but little is known about the effect of lifetime trauma histories on the symptom expression of active-duty military personnel diagnosed with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Active-duty soldiers (N = 162) were diagnosed with PTSD from deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale. Soldiers then completed self-report measures of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Lifetime exposure to categories of trauma types and the intensity of exposure was reported on the Life Events Checklist. The number of categories of trauma that happened to them significantly predicted the severity of depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms, as well as a positive screen for likely depression diagnosis based on self-reported symptoms. Direct exposure to trauma explained most of the association, as witnessing trauma and hearing about trauma did not explain symptoms beyond events that happened to participants. Interpersonal traumatic events were not associated with psychiatric functioning after controlling for non-interpersonal traumatic events. Assessment of trauma history among post-9/11 service members and veterans should include the frequency and variety of lifetime trauma exposure, given the association with psychiatric functioning.