Evaluating basic assumptions underlying the PTSD diagnosis
In the mnemonic model of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the current memory of a negative event, not the event itself, determines symptoms. The model is an alternative to the current event-based etiology of PTSD represented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The model accounts for important and reliable findings that are often inconsistent with the current diagnostic view and that have been neglected by theoretical accounts of the disorder, including the following observations. The diagnosis needs objective information about the trauma and peritraumatic emotions but uses retrospective memory reports that can have substantial biases. Negative events and emotions that do not satisfy the current diagnostic criteria for a trauma can be followed by symptoms that would otherwise qualify for PTSD. Predisposing factors that affect the current memory have large effects on symptoms. The inability-to-recall-an-important-aspect-of-the-trauma symptom does not correlate with other symptoms. Loss or enhancement of the trauma memory affects PTSD symptoms in predictable ways. Special mechanisms that apply only to traumatic memories are not needed, increasing parsimony and the knowledge that can be applied to understanding PTSD.
Psychological Review, 2008, Vol 115, Issue 4, p. 985-1011