OBJECTIVE: The authors' goal was to examine subjective and objective
predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). METHOD: Hospitalized
burn patients were assessed 1 week after injury with both objective
predictors (percent of burned area and facial disfigurement) and subjective
predictors (emotional distress and perceived social support). The patients
were then assessed 2, 6, and 12 months later for development of PTSD.
RESULTS: Among 51 patients, 18 (35.3%) met PTSD criteria at 2 months. High
rates of PTSD were also found at 6 months (N = 16, 40.0% of the 40
available patients) and 12 months (N = 14, 45.2% of the 31 available
patients). PTSD was predicted by subjective variables assessed at baseline,
but patients with more severe burns were not more likely to develop PTSD.
CONCLUSIONS: The DSM-III-R diagnosis of PTSD relies on an objective
evaluation of the stressor's severity. The prospective data in this study
support those who argue that evaluations of the severity of the stressor
might also take into account subjective factors.