Arousal, numbing, and intrusion: symptom structure of PTSD following assault

Am J Psychiatry. 1995 Jan;152(1):116-20. doi: 10.1176/ajp.152.1.116.


Objective: This study investigated hypotheses concerning the importance of symptoms of numbing in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Methods: Symptoms of PTSD were assessed in 72 female rape victims and 86 female victims of nonsexual assault approximately 3 months after the crimes occurred. A principal-components factor analysis of subjects' symptoms was then undertaken.

Results: The analysis yielded three factors: arousal/avoidance, numbing, and intrusion. These were somewhat different from the symptom clusters in DSM-III-R, since effortful avoidance and numbing symptoms did not load on the same factor. Numbing symptoms appeared to be particularly important in identifying individuals with PTSD.

Conclusions: The results imply that there are two patterns of posttrauma symptoms, one characterizing PTSD and the second characterizing a phobic reaction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Crime*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Rape
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Violence