Psychophysiologic testing for post-traumatic stress disorder: forensic psychiatric
R. K. Pitman and S. P. Orr,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
21(1): 37-52, 1993.
The validity of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis is limited by both the illusory
objectivity of the traumatic event and the subjectivity of the ensuing syndrome. These limitations
are especially problematic in the forensic setting. Psychophysiologic measurements may strengthen
PTSD's forensic value by offering a more objective assessment technique for cases that find their
way into the courtroom. Based upon the results of published research studies conducted in a range
of military and civilian, PTSD and non-PTSD subjects, psychophysiologic data can provide evidence
helping to establish or refute the presence of the DSM-III-R PTSD arousal criteria, as well as aid
psychiatric experts in estimating the probability of the disorder's presence in a given claimant.
Psychophysiologic testing should be viewed as one component of a multimethod forensic psychiatric
evaluation for PTSD. It is likely that it will soon be offered and, given current legal standards,
admitted as evidence in civil and criminal litigation. [References: 69]