Professor Craig White MML ClinPsyD PhD FRCP FBPsS
Consultant Clinical Psychologist
My first blog post
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is the only psychological injury recognised by the legal system
When people are referred by lawyers or insurance companies for my opinion on psychological injuries they may have been told they have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
This may be the case, though PTSD is just one of many anxiety disorders that can develop after involvement in a road traffic collision - specific phobias, panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder or an adjustment disorder with anxious mood might be more accurate in describing experiences. Although the legal process is based around a classification linked to diagnosis, my reports are also based on psychological case formulation to consider questions about origins of symptoms, contributory factors and recommendations for intervention.
It is not possible to identify factors that increase the risk of psychological symptoms after trauma
Did you know that being admitted to an intensive care unit, perceived threat to life (peri-traumatic appraisals, ie. the thoughts that occur at the point trauma is occurring/life is threatened, a family history of ‘instability’, having relatives with experience of psychological problems, a personal history of alcohol misuse, experience of further stressors after exposure to trauma and the levels of available social support all determine the development, nature and manifestation of psychological responses to trauma.
Decisions about causation, impact on quality of life and prognosis require a specialist assessment that takes account of all of these individual factors in describing impact - this is generally more helpful than a 'tick-box' approach to reports that list psychological symptoms (often with no context or understanding of the empirical evidence on psychological processes after trauma).
Over the coming weeks and months, I will be outlining observations and providing advice on how best to ensure that psychological perspective, theory and opinion influences decisions that matter and have an impact on important decisions and discussions about their lives.
Professor Craig White