A preliminary investigation of the new and revised symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in DSM-5

Depress Anxiety. 2012 Aug;29(8):731-8. doi: 10.1002/da.21965. Epub 2012 Jun 11.


Background: Research has shown that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is highly comorbid with other mental disorders. The DSM-5 marks an opportunity to increase the differential diagnosis of PTSD by emphasizing symptoms that are specific to PTSD and deemphasizing symptoms that are common to many mental disorders. This study analyzes the new and revised PTSD symptom criteria proposed for DSM-5 by examining their relations with diagnoses and measures of PTSD. In addition, we report the specificity of DSM-5 symptoms with PTSD compared to depressive disorders and substance use.

Methods: This study utilized pre- and postdeployment data collected from a sample of 213 National Guard Brigade Combat Team soldiers who were deployed to Iraq. Questionnaire data were collected pre- and postdeployment and interview data were collected postdeployment. Scales to measure the DSM-5 symptoms were created using structural analyses and were correlated with interview and self-report measures of PTSD, depression, and substance use.

Results: The DSM-5 symptom of anger shows the most increase from pre- to postdeployment in participants diagnosed with PTSD. In addition, this scale showed the strongest relation to PTSD and showed some evidence of specificity. Other symptom scales, including those measuring negative expectations and aggressive behaviors, showed equivalent correlations with PTSD, depression, and substance use.

Conclusions: It will be important to continue studying the specificity of anger with PTSD. Several of the other new and revised DSM-5 symptoms appear to be nonspecific, and it is unlikely that their inclusion in the diagnostic criteria for PTSD will improve differential diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anger
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel / psychology
  • Psychometrics / instrumentation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis