Acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder in victims of violent crime

Am J Psychiatry. 1999 Mar;156(3):360-6. doi: 10.1176/ajp.156.3.360.


Objective: In a group of crime victims recruited from the community, the authors investigated the ability of both a diagnosis of acute stress disorder and its component symptoms to predict posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at 6 months.

Method: A mixed-sex group of 157 victims of violent assaults were interviewed within 1 month of the crime. At 6-month follow-up 88% were reinterviewed by telephone and completed further assessments generating estimates of the prevalence of PTSD.

Results: The rate of acute stress disorder was 19%, and the rate of subsequent PTSD was 20%. Symptom clusters based on the DSM-IV criteria for acute stress disorder were moderately strongly interrelated. All symptom clusters predicted subsequent PTSD, but not as well as an overall diagnosis of acute stress disorder, which correctly classified 83% of the group. Similar predictive power could be achieved by classifying the group according to the presence or absence of at least three reexperiencing or arousal symptoms. Logistic regression indicated that both a diagnosis of acute stress disorder and high levels of reexperiencing or arousal symptoms made independent contributions to predicting PTSD.

Conclusions: This exploratory study provides evidence for the internal coherence of the new acute stress disorder diagnosis and for the symptom thresholds proposed in DSM-IV. As predicted, acute stress disorder was a strong predictor of later PTSD, but similar predictive power may be possible by using simpler criteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dissociative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Probability
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*