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Ehring, Thomas; Krüger-Gottschalk, Antje; Rau, Heinrich; Schäfer, Ingo; Schellong, Julia; Dyer, Anne and Knaevelsrud, Christine (2018): Testing the ICD-11 proposal for complex PTSD in trauma-exposed adults. Factor structure and symptom profiles. In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology, Vol. 9, No. 1: pp. 1-11

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Background: The proposed ICD-11 criteria for trauma-related disorders define posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) as separate disorders. Results of previous studies support the validity of this concept. However, due to limitations of existing studies (e.g. homogeneity of the samples), the present study aimed to test the construct validity and factor structure of cPTSD and its distinction from PTSD using a heterogeneous trauma-exposed sample.

Method: Confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) were conducted to explore the factor structure of the proposed ICD-11 cPTSD diagnosis in a sample of 341 trauma-exposed adults (n = 191 female, M = 37.42 years, SD = 12.04). In a next step, latent profile analyses (LPAs) were employed to evaluate predominant symptom profiles of cPTSD symptoms.

Results: The results of the CFA showed that a six-factor structure (i.e. symptoms of intrusion, avoidance, hyperarousal and symptoms of affective dysregulation, negative self-concept, and interpersonal problems) fits the data best. According to LPA, a four-class solution optimally characterizes the data. Class 1 represents moderate PTSD and low symptoms in the specific cPTSD clusters (PTSD group, 30.4%). Class 2 showed low symptom severity in all six clusters (low symptoms group, 24.1%). Classes 3 and 4 both exhibited cPTSD symptoms but differed with respect to the symptom severity (Class 3: cPTSD, 34.9% and Class 4: severe cPTSD, 10.6%).

Conclusions: The findings replicate previous studies supporting the proposed factor structure of cPTSD in ICD-11. Additionally, the results support the validity and usefulness of conceptualizing PTSD and cPTSD as discrete mental disorders.

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