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Psychiatr Serv. 2003 Apr;54(4):523-8.

Traumatic life events and PTSD among women with substance use disorders and schizophrenia.

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University of Maryland School of Medicine, and VA Maryland Health Care System, 10 North Greene Street, Suite 6A MIRECC, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.



The authors assessed the prevalence of traumatic life events and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among women with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and co-occurring substance abuse or dependence. The association between PTSD and specific traumatic life events was also examined.


Fifty-four drug-addicted women with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder participated in the study. All women were psychiatric outpatients and completed a large battery of structured clinical assessments.


High rates of trauma, particularly physical abuse (81 percent), and revictimization--being abused both as a child and as an adult--were reported. The average number of traumatic life events reported was eight, and almost three-quarters of the sample reported revictimization. Rates of current PTSD were considerably higher than those documented in previous study samples of persons with serious mental illness and of drug-addicted women in the general community. PTSD was significantly associated with childhood sexual abuse and revictimization.


The high levels of trauma and revictimization observed in the study highlight the need for the development of evidence-based interventions to treat trauma and its aftermath among women with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Given the overlap in symptoms between PTSD and schizophrenia, a better understanding is needed of how PTSD is expressed among people with schizophrenia. Recommendations and standards for the assessment of PTSD among this population need to be articulated. Finally, the comparatively high rates of PTSD suggest that the combination of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and substance use disorder makes these women particularly vulnerable to adverse outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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