Requiring both avoidance and emotional numbing in DSM-V PTSD: will it help?

J Affect Disord. 2011 May;130(3):483-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.10.032. Epub 2010 Nov 10.


Objective: The proposed DSM-V criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) specifically require both active avoidance and emotional numbing symptoms for a diagnosis. In DSM-IV, since both are included in the same cluster, active avoidance is not essential. Numbing symptoms overlap with depression, which may result in spurious comorbidity or overdiagnosis of PTSD. This paper investigated the impact of requiring both active avoidance and emotional numbing on the rates of PTSD diagnosis and comorbidity with depression.

Method: We investigated PTSD and depression in 835 traumatic injury survivors at 3 and 12 months post-injury. We used the DSM-IV criteria but explored the potential impact of DSM-IV and DSM-V approaches to avoidance and numbing using comparison of proportion analyses.

Results: The DSM-V requirement of both active avoidance and emotional numbing resulted in significant reductions in PTSD caseness compared with DSM-IV of 22% and 26% respectively at 3 and 12 months posttrauma. By 12 months, the rates of comorbid PTSD in those with depression were significantly lower (44% vs. 34%) using the new criteria, primarily due to the lack of avoidance symptoms.

Conclusion: These preliminary data suggest that requiring both active avoidance and numbing as separate clusters offers a useful refinement of the PTSD diagnosis. Requiring active avoidance may help to define the unique aspects of PTSD and reduce spurious diagnoses of PTSD in those with depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Young Adult