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Mutual maintenance of PTSD and physical symptoms for Veterans returning from deployment.

McAndrew LM, Lu SE, Phillips LA, Maestro K, Quigley KS. Mutual maintenance of PTSD and physical symptoms for Veterans returning from deployment. European journal of psychotraumatology. 2019 May 21; 10(1):1608717.

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: The mutual maintenance model proposes that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and chronic physical symptoms have a bi-directional temporal relationship. Despite widespread support for this model, there are relatively few empirical tests of the model and these have primarily examined patients with a traumatic physical injury. : To extend the assessment of this model, we examined the temporal relationship between PTSD and physical symptoms for military personnel deployed to combat (i.e., facing the risk of death) who were not evacuated for traumatic injury. : The current study used a prospective, longitudinal design to understand the cross-lagged relationships between PTSD and physical symptoms before, immediately after, 3 months after, and 1 year after combat deployment. : The cross-lagged results showed physical symptoms at every time point were consistently related to greater PTSD symptoms at the subsequent time point. PTSD symptoms were related to subsequent physical symptoms, but only at one time-point with immediate post-deployment PTSD symptoms related to physical symptoms at three months after deployment. : The findings extend prior work by providing evidence that PTSD and physical symptoms may be mutually maintaining even when there is not a severe traumatic physical injury.

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