Acute stress disorder as a predictor of posttraumatic stress symptoms

Catherine Classen, Cheryl Koopman, Robert Hales, David Spiegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

182 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Using the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for acute stress disorder, the authors examined whether the acute psychological effects of being a bystander to violence involving mass shootings in an office building predicted later posttraumatic stress symptoms. Method: The participants in this study were 36 employees working in an office building where a gunman shot 14 persons (eight fatally). The acute stress symptoms were assessed within 8 days of the event, and posttraumatic stress symptoms of 32 employees were assessed 7 to 10 months later. Results: According to the Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Questionnaire, 12 (33%) of the employees met criteria for the diagnosis of acute stress disorder. Acute stress symptoms were found to be an excellent predictor of the subjects' posttraumatic stress symptoms 7-10 months after the traumatic event. Conclusions: These results suggest not only that being a bystander to violence is highly stressful in the short run, but that acute stress reactions to such an event further predict later posttraumatic stress symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-624
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Volume155
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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