Research has consistently demonstrated that stress reactions to potentially traumatic events do not represent a unified phenomenon. Instead, individuals tend to cluster into prototypical response patterns over time including chronic symptoms, recovery, and resilience. We examined heterogeneity in a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom course in a sample of 178 active-duty police officers following exposure to a life-threatening event using latent growth mixture modeling (LGMM). This analysis revealed 3 discrete PTSD symptom trajectories: resilient (88%), distressed-improving (10%), and distressed-worsening (2%). We further examined whether trait and peritraumatic dissociation distinguished these symptom trajectories. Findings indicate that trait and peritraumatic dissociation differentiated the resilient from the distressed-improving trajectory (trait, p < .05; peritraumatic, p < .001), but only peritraumatic dissociation differentiated the resilient from the distressed-worsening trajectory (p < .001). It is essential to explore heterogeneity in symptom course and its predictors among active-duty police officers, a repeatedly exposed group. These findings suggest that police officers may be a highly resilient group overall. Furthermore, though there is abundant evidence that dissociation has a positive linear relationship with PTSD symptoms, this study demonstrates that degree of dissociation can distinguish between resilient and symptomatic groups of individuals.
Copyright © 2011 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.