Identifying Qualitatively Distinct PTSD Symptom Typologies

Research Paper Title

Identifying PTSD Symptom Typologies: A Latent Class Analysis.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterised by re-experiencing, avoidance, negative alterations in cognition and mood, and arousal symptoms per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).

While numerous symptom combinations are possible to meet diagnostic criteria, simplification of this heterogeneity of symptom presentations may have clinical utility.


In a nationally representative sample of American adults with lifetime DSM-5 PTSD diagnoses from the third wave of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (n = 2,365), the researchers used Latent Class Analysis (LCA) to identify qualitatively distinct PTSD symptom typologies.

Subsequently, they used linear and logistic regressions to identify demographic, trauma-related, and psychiatric characteristics associated with membership in each class.


In contrast to prior LCAs with DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria, fit indices for the present analyses of DSM-5 PTSD revealed a four-class solution to the data:

  1. Dysphoric (23.8%);
  2. Threat-Reactivity (26.1%);
  3. High Symptom (33.7%); and
  4. Low Symptom (16.3%).

Exploratory analyses revealed distinctions between classes in socioeconomic impairment, trauma exposure, comorbid diagnoses, and demographic characteristics.


Although the study is limited by its cross-sectional design (preventing analysis of temporal associations or causal pathways between covariates and latent classes), findings may support efforts to develop personalised medicine approaches to PTSD diagnosis and treatment.


Campbell, S.B., Trachik, B., Goldberg, S. & Simpson, T.L. (2020) Identifying PTSD Symptom Typologies: A Latent Class Analysis. Psychiatry Research. 285:112779. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.112779. Epub 2020 Jan 23.

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