Pretraumatic Stress Reactions in Soldiers Deployed to Afghanistan

Clin Psychol Sci. 2015 Sep;3(5):663-674. doi: 10.1177/2167702614551766.


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a diagnosis related to the past. Pre-traumatic stress reactions, as measured by intrusive involuntary images of possible future stressful events and their associated avoidance and increased arousal, have been overlooked in the PTSD literature. Here we introduce a scale that measures pre-traumatic stress reactions providing a clear future-oriented parallel to the posttraumatic stress reactions described in the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. We apply this pre-traumatic stress reactions checklist (PreCL) to Danish soldiers before, during, and after deployment to Afghanistan. The PreCL has good internal consistency and is highly correlated with a standard measure of PTSD symptoms. The PreCL as answered before the soldiers' deployment significantly predicted level of PTSD symptoms during and after their deployment, while controlling for baseline PTSD symptoms and combat exposure measured during and after deployment. The findings have implications for the conceptualization of PTSD, screening, and treatment.