The purpose of this study was to prospectively investigate the onset, course, and remission of psychiatric disorders in the first 6 months after a serious accident for consecutive patients in a hospital emergency department. Participants were 58 patients aged 18–65 who were assessed shortly after attending a hospital emergency department and were followed up 6 months afterwards. Patients were interviewed with regard to past and current psychiatric history using different instruments (e.g. SCID for DSM-IV).
Prior to their accidents, 35% of all subjects had experienced one or more psychiatric disorders (lifetime prevalence). Shortly after the accident, the incidence of Acute Stress Disorder (7%), subsyndromal Acute Stress Disorder (12%), and adjustment disorder (1.5%) was increased as a reaction to the accident. At this time, 29% of all patients suffered from an acute psychiatric disorder. Six-months after the accident, 10% of the subjects met criteria for Major Depression, 6% for PTSD, 4% for subsyndromal PTSD, and 1.5% for Specific Phobia as newly developed disorders. The course of the psychiatric disorders shows that those patients who met criteria for any psychiatric diagnosis shortly after the accident ran a much higher risk for developing new or comorbid psychiatric disorders in the future.