Subthreshold PTSD in College Undergraduate Students: Examining Definitions and Functional Outcomes




Robertson, Breahna

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Generally defined as endorsing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) without meeting full diagnostic criteria, subthreshold PTSD affects a significant subset of trauma survivors suffering from clinically relevant symptoms that can result in functional impairment (i.e., disturbances in functioning in social, occupational, or other important domains). Despite associated impairment, there is no common set of diagnostic criteria for subthreshold PTSD in extant literature. Further, the majority of research surrounding subthreshold PTSD focuses on military samples, leaving a gap in the literature regarding its impact on functional impairment in college students. This study is a cross-sectional, secondary data analysis of a parent study that examined the effects of the trauma film paradigm on decision making in undergraduate students. The aim of the present study was to examine the relationship between the definitions of subthreshold PTSD with the greatest utility (high inclusion rate and high impairment, as well as how impairing the symptoms of subthreshold PTSD are compared to that of probable full PTSD and no PTSD groups. Based on the existing literature, it was hypothesized that the Six Plus definition of subthreshold PTSD would have the greatest utility. Further, it was hypothesized this subthreshold PTSD group would have similar functional impairment to the probable full PTSD group and greater impairment than the no PTSD group when analyzed using the definition(s) with greatest utility. Data from this study should inform the field of the utility of subthreshold PTSD definitions with the utility.


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college students, functional impairment, subthreshold PTSD, utility