Early predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 2003 May 1;53(9):789-95. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01895-4.


The benefits of providing early intervention for people recently exposed to trauma have highlighted the need to develop means to identify people who will develop chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This review provides an overview of prospective studies that have indexed the acute reactions to trauma that are predictive of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Ten studies of the predictive power of the acute stress disorder diagnosis indicate that this diagnosis does not have adequate predictive power. There is no convergence across studies on any constellation of acute symptoms that predict posttraumatic stress disorder. A review of biological and cognitive mechanisms occurring in the acute posttraumatic phase suggests that these factors may provide more accurate means of predicting chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Recommendations for future research to facilitate identification of key markers of acutely traumatized people who will develop posttraumatic stress disorder are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Time Factors