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J Behav Health Serv Res. 2012 Apr;39(2):190-201. doi: 10.1007/s11414-011-9263-x.

Discrepancy in diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): treatment for the wrong reason.

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  • 1Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit, Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine, 801 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


In primary care (PC), patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often undiagnosed. To determine variables associated with treatment, this cross-sectional study assessed 592 adult patients for PTSD. Electronic medical record (EMR) review of the prior 12 months assessed mental health (MH) diagnoses and MH treatments [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and/or ≥1 visit with MH professional]. Of 133 adults with PTSD, half (49%; 66/133) received an SSRI (18%), a visit with MH professional (14%), or both (17%). Of those treated, 88% (58/66) had an EMR MH diagnosis, the majority (71%; 47/66) depression and (18%; 12/66) PTSD. The odds of receiving MH treatment were increased 8.2 times (95% CI 3.1-21.5) for patients with an EMR MH diagnosis. Nearly 50% of patients with PTSD received MH treatment, yet few had this diagnosis documented. Treatment was likely due to overlap in the management of PTSD and other mental illnesses.

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