Posttraumatic adaptation and distress among adult burn survivors

Robert P. Roca, Robert J. Spence, Andrew M. Munster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence, natural history, and psychosocial impact of posttraumatic symptoms in adult burn survivors. Method: Forty-three adult inpatients at a regional burn center were assessed at discharge with standardized instruments to determine the presence of psychiatric disorder, assess personality, and quantify depression. Thirty-one patients were evaluated 4 months after discharge. Results: Posttraumatic stress disorder was diagnosed in 7% of patients at discharge and in over 22% of patients at follow-up. Symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing (DSM-III-R criterion C symptoms) tended to emerge after discharge from the hospital. While posttraumatic symptoms were associated with symptoms of depression, they were not strongly associated with psychosocial adjustment to illness; psychosocial adjustment was more strongly related to aspects of personality, the injury itself, and its treatment. Conclusions: Since adult burn survivors often develop new symptoms of posttraumatic distress after leaving the hospital, longitudinal surveillance is required to detect new cases and provide appropriate treatment. Survivors at risk for poor psychosocial adjustment after discharge may be identifiable during hospitalization, and preventive treatment strategies should be developed and tested for this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1238
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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