Does posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affect performance?

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007 Aug;195(8):701-4. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31811f4481.


Research has increasingly identified alarming levels of traumatic stress symptoms in individuals working in emergency services and other high stress jobs. This study examined the effects of prior critical incident exposure and current posttraumatic symptoms on the performance of a nonpatient population, police recruits, during an acutely stressful event. A stressful policing situation was created through the use of a video simulator room that was responsive to actions of participants. The performance of participants to the simulated emergency was evaluated by 3 independent blinded raters. Prior exposure to critical incidents was measured using the Critical Incident History Questionnaire and current level of traumatic stress symptoms was measured using the Impact of Events Scale-Revised. Neither previous exposure to critical incidents nor trauma symptoms correlated with performance level. Recruits with high or severe levels of trauma symptoms did not demonstrate impairments in judgment, communication, or situation control compared with their colleagues with lesser or no trauma symptoms. On the basis of these findings, there is no reason to believe that police recruits with PTSD are prone to making errors of communication or judgment that would place them or others at increased risk.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emergencies / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Police / education
  • Police / standards*
  • Professional Competence*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Teaching
  • Videotape Recording