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Depress Anxiety. 2009;26(8):732-8. doi: 10.1002/da.20518.

Changes in reported physical health symptoms and social function with prolonged exposure therapy for chronic posttraumatic stress disorder.

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  • 1Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105, USA.



Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with significant health risk, illness, and functional impairment, e.g., Green and Kimerling [2004: Physical Health Consequences of Exposure to Extreme Stress. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association] Kimerling et al. [2000: Trauma and Health: J Trauma Stress 13:115-128].


These analyses examined whether negative health perceptions and general social functioning change with treatment of chronic PTSD among women from a randomized controlled study comparing prolonged exposure (PE; n=48) or PE combined with cognitive restructuring (PE/CR; n=40) to waitlist (n=19; Foa et al., 2005: J Consult Clin Psychol 73:953-964].


Self- reported physical health difficulties were significantly reduced in the PE and PE/CR conditions compared to the waitlist condition. These reductions did not demonstrate significant change during the 12 month follow-up period. Self-reported discomfort associated with physical health difficulties did not demonstrate significant change over treatment. No difference was detected between the active treatment and waitlist conditions. Both the PE and PE/CR groups reported improved social functioning at post treatment compared to the waitlist. Additional improvement in general social functioning was found between 3 and 12 month follow-up assessments. Changes in PTSD and depressive symptoms over treatment accounted for 29% of the variance in reduction of reported health problems and 30% of the variance in improvement of general social functioning. Importantly, only changes in PTSD symptoms significantly contribute to the model predicting change in physical health problems with depression associated only at a trend level. However, collinearity between PTSD and depression makes interpretation difficult.


Negative health perceptions and general social function improve with PE. Changes in depression and PTSD with treatment are related to these changes.

(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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