The structure of PTSD and depression symptoms in marines before and after deployment

Barnes, John Benjamin
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University of Delaware
Some research has suggested that the symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder may constitute one post-trauma reaction. The current study aimed to extend this research by investigating the extent to which symptoms of PTSD and depression [as measured by the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL) and the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II)] are hierarchical in nature, with a common general distress factor and variance specific to each measure, and whether this structure changes before and after a stressful military deployment. The same sample of 298 marines deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 was assessed 1-month before deployment, and 1- and 5-months after returning from deployment, using self-report measures of PTSD and depression, as well as measures of affectivity, lifetime trauma, current deployment trauma, and coping. At all three assessments, PTSD and depression symptoms loaded onto one higher-order factor. In addition, there was remaining variance specific to each measure at the baseline and 5-month post-return assessments. At the 1-month assessment, the PTSD-specific factor was less strong, and the depression-specific factor did not reach statistical significance. These findings suggest a robust and stable common symptom presentation that might be particularly strong in the aftermath of exposure to potentially traumatic experiences. Yet, there are also symptom patterns specific to PTSD and depression that warrant investigation.