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Am J Psychiatry. 1995 Jan;152(1):116-20.

Arousal, numbing, and intrusion: symptom structure of PTSD following assault.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, Philadelphia, 19129.



This study investigated hypotheses concerning the importance of symptoms of numbing in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Symptoms of PTSD were assessed in 72 female rape victims and 86 female victims of nonsexual assault approximately 3 months after the crimes occurred. A principal-components factor analysis of subjects' symptoms was then undertaken.


The analysis yielded three factors: arousal/avoidance, numbing, and intrusion. These were somewhat different from the symptom clusters in DSM-III-R, since effortful avoidance and numbing symptoms did not load on the same factor. Numbing symptoms appeared to be particularly important in identifying individuals with PTSD.


The results imply that there are two patterns of posttrauma symptoms, one characterizing PTSD and the second characterizing a phobic reaction.

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