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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex PTSD in ex-Service personnel

Thanks to a grant award of £97,444 by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) to Edinburgh Napier University, an innovative research project will test how prevalent a new type of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), known as Complex PTSD (CPTSD)*, is in ex-Service personnel in order to provide more appropriate treatment.

This is the first study to test the theory on ex-Service personnel, though 10 previous studies have supported there being a difference between the two disorders. CPTSD culminates from childhood trauma and multiple traumatisation and there is a need for a different treatment approach to PTSD.

Previous research has shown CPTSD often requires a more lengthy, well-coordinated treatment plan with different interventions than that offered to those suffering non-complex PTSD.

There is evidence to suggest a substantially high percentage of military personnel will have been exposed to childhood trauma and/or multiple combat stressors commonly associated with CPTSD and, following various studies suggesting veterans with PTSD have poorer treatment responses to non-veterans, researchers of this study believe the reason for this is that many veterans would meet the criteria for CPTSD and as such, require a different treatment approach for it to be successful.

Researchers will determine the prevalence of this new category of PTSD in UK ex-Service personnel for the first time using the International Trauma Questionnaire. This will determine if there are distinct groups of participants with symptoms reflecting the two differing sibling disorders of PTSD and CPTSD, and will determine how presentations of PTSD and CPTSD differ in these groups.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said:

“This is highly significant research that will enable more tailored treatment to be provided to ex-Service personnel suffering Complex PTSD. Findings from this project have the potential to transform how the post-Service community are cared for in the UK, improving the well-being of the individuals concerned, and indirectly the quality of life of their families.”

Professor Thanos Karatzias, Professor of Mental Health and Director of Research at Edinburgh Napier University, said:

“We are really excited to have received funding to explore the newly released ICD-11 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD (CPTSD) in military personnel for the very first time. CPTSD requires a different, more intensive treatment approach than PTSD but at the moment it is unknown how many people are affected by it. By describing the nature and extent of these two conditions, we will be in a better position to describe how to triage veterans presenting with traumatic stress in order to identify those individuals who require more intensive treatment.

“We envisage that findings from this study will help improve service user experiences of treatment, reduce treatment drop-out and improve treatment outcomes for veterans with CPTSD.”

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