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J Nerv Ment Dis. 2004 Feb;192(2):146-52.

Early symptom predictors of chronic distress in Gulf War veterans.

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  • 1Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mental Health Service Line, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


Although there is evidence that specific early hyperarousal, avoidance, and emotional numbing symptoms are associated with later posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology among veterans, little is known about predictors of later non-PTSD-related psychological symptoms. One and 2 years after serving in the Gulf War, 348 military reservists were assessed for severity of war zone stress, PTSD, psychological distress, and stress-mediated physical complaints. Overall PTSD symptomatology and emotional numbing and hyperarousal symptom clusters increased over time, whereas re-experiencing and avoidance symptoms showed no change. Emotional numbing and hyperarousal symptoms at 1 year predicted generalized distress, depression, anxiety, hostility, and somatic symptoms at 2 years, whereas re-experiencing and avoidance symptoms did not. Findings highlight the importance of targeting early emotional numbing and hyperarousal symptom clusters to reduce longer-term psychological distress.

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