Date of Submission
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex condition that has many medical and mental health sequelae. Research has shown that PTSD patients are often not accurately identified, particularly in primary care settings. The result of this underdetection is that these patients often utilize more health care resources. This investigation sought to determine whether the complex nature of PTSD, particularly the frequent presence of comorbid physical symptoms that may overshadow PTSD, makes the disorder difficult to detect in primary care settings. Other factors that could contribute to this underdetection were also investigated. A two-group between-subjects design was utilized for this investigation, using a sample of 144 primary care physicians. Participants were randomly assigned to respond to two different vignettes to assess their ability to accurately diagnose PTSD in a straightforward (PTSD symptoms only) or a complex (PTSD symptoms and several other physical complaints) presentation. Primary care physicians overwhelmingly were able to accurately diagnose PTSD across both conditions. Furthermore, factors such as experience in the primary care and knowledge of PTSD did not significantly contribute to the ability to detect PTSD. These results suggest that primary care physicians are fully capable of accurately identifying PTSD when it presents, regardless of whether the presentation is straightforward or complex. However, limitations must be taken into consideration when interpreting the results, including lack of variance in detection rates. Future studies can apply this design to standardized or live patients to ascertain if the results generalize.
Della Porta, John Michael, "Primary Care Physicians’ Ability to Detect PTSD" (2017). PCOM Psychology Dissertations. 431.