Behavioral Health

Posttraumatic stress disorder: Often missed in primary care

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Most PTSD cases occur among civilians—not combat veterans. And most sufferers avoid talking about their experiences, making attentiveness to selected clues vital.




DeSean W,* a 47-year-old man, returned to his primary care clinic with a new complaint of epigastric burning that had been bothering him for the past 4 months. He had tried several over-the-counter remedies, which provided no relief. He also remained concerned—despite assurances to the contrary at previous clinic visits—that he had contracted a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) after going to a bar one night 4 to 5 months ago. At 2 other clinic visits since that time, STD test results were negative. At this current visit, symptoms and details of sexual history were unchanged since the last visit, with the exception of the epigastric pain.

When asked if he thought he had contracted an STD through a sexual encounter the night he went to the bar, he emphatically said he would not cheat on his wife. Surprisingly, given his concern, he avoided further discussion on modes of contracting an STD.

The physician prescribed ranitidine 150 mg bid for the epigastric burning and explained, once more, the significance of the STD test results. However, he also decided to further examine Mr. W’s concern about STDs and the night he may have contracted one.


*The patient’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.


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