Psychology, Professional

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Nathaniel Nelson; Tatyana Ramirez


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is diagnosed when individuals are unable to respond in an adaptive manner to a traumatic event. Risk of developing PTSD following a traumatic event may vary with a number of factors, such as gender, the nature and severity of the traumatogenic event itself, and premorbid trait vulnerabilities, such as neuroticism. The primary aim of the present study was to investigate a community sample’s perceptions of three hypothetical trauma events, the expected courses of trauma symptoms following these events, and anticipated rates of PTSD diagnoses as compared with the published epidemiologic data in trauma samples. Forty-one survey participants described expected onset and course of trauma symptoms, as well as DSM-5-defined diagnoses associated with vignettes depicting three potentially traumatic events: (1) sexual assault; (2) secondary trauma; and (3) probable concussion. In general, participants’ perceptions of trauma and PTSD were congruent with the known epidemiology literature. Respondents identified sexual assault as the most traumatizing of the three vignettes (95.1%) compared to much lower rates for secondary trauma (0%) and concussion (2.4%). Predictors of interest (mental health history; trait dysfunction; gender) were not ultimately predictive of PTSD in the current sample, possibly due to issues of restricted ranges and limited sample size. This study gives a first glance into the public’s perceptions of trauma and PTSD, identifying some misinformed beliefs between the public and psychological community, thus stressing the importance of understanding the influence perceptions of trauma have on the public’s mental health seeking behaviors.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.