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J Anxiety Disord. 2013 Mar;27(2):225-30. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2013.01.007. Epub 2013 Feb 14.

The association between posttraumatic stress symptoms and functional impairment during ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Parnassia Group, The Hague, The Netherlands.


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has suffered from a bloody conflict for more than a decade. More than 5,400,000 people died from war-related causes since 1998 and exposure to violence was wide-spread. This study investigated the impact of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms on perceived health and physical and social functioning, filling an important gap in the current literature. Data were collected from a sample of 93 adults living in Bunia, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Structured in-person interviews included the PTSD section of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and the World Health Organization Disability Assessment Scale. Additional questions were included to assess social resources. Study recruitment was balanced to achieve equal representation of both sexes and each quarter of town. Forty percent met symptom criteria for probable PTSD. Individuals with PTSD reported poor perceived general health and had high disability scores compared to those without PTSD. Of the three PTSD symptom clusters, hyperarousal was most strongly associated with disability. Individuals with PTSD were significantly more emotionally affected by their health problems than those without PTSD (85% versus 41%), had more difficulties in activities involving social contact (54% versus 16%) and in doing their daily work (54% versus 20%). The impact of war-related violence on mental health is severe in the DRC. Psychosocial interventions developed in conflict areas might be best targeted primarily to supporting social functioning and reducing hyperarousal. Implications for clinical treatment and future directions are discussed.

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