Posttraumatic stress disorder according to DSM-5 and DSM-IV diagnostic criteria: a comparison in a sample of Congolese ex-combatants

Background: Compared to DSM-IV, the criteria for diagnosing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been modified in DSM-5.

Objective: The first aim of this study was to examine how these modifications impact rates of PTSD in a sample of Congolese ex-combatants. The second goal of this study was to investigate whether PTSD symptoms were associated with perpetrator-related acts or victim-related traumatic events.

Method: Ninety-five male ex-combatants in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were interviewed. Both the DSM-IV and the DSM-5 PTSD symptom criteria were assessed.

Results: The DSM-5 symptom criteria yielded a PTSD rate of 50% (n=47), whereas the DSM-IV symptom criteria were met by 44% (n=42). If the DSM-5 would be set as the current “gold standard,” then DSM-IV would have produced more false negatives (8%) than false positives (3%). A minority of participants (19%, n=18) indicated an event during which they were involved as a perpetrator as their most stressful event. Results of a regression analysis (R2=0.40) showed that, after accounting for the number of types of traumatic events, perpetrated violent acts were not associated with the symptom severity of PTSD.

Conclusions: The findings demonstrate that more diagnostic cases were produced with the DSM-5 diagnostic rules than were dropped resulting in an increase in PTSD rates compared to the DSM-IV system. The missing association between PTSD symptoms and perpetrated violent acts might be explained by a potential fascinating and excited perception of these acts.

Susanne Schaal, Anke Koebach, Harald Hinkel, Thomas Elbert | 2015
In: European journal of psychotraumatology, ISSN 2000-8066 | 6