Assessment and treatment of PTSD in people with intellectual disabilities


People with intellectual disabilities (ID) are more often exposed to potentially traumatic events than people without ID. Due to impairments in their cognitive and adaptive skills, processing adverse life events is supposed to be more difficult. This chapter contains an overview of the literature on the (1) manifestations and assessment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people with ID and (2) treatment (i.e., trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy [TF-CBT] and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing [EMDR] therapy) of PTSD symptoms in people with ID. There is evidence to suggest that manifestations of PTSD in children with ID correspond with those in children without ID. To assess the effects of psychological trauma in children and to establish the diagnosis of PTSD, the Adapted ADIS-C PTSD Section appears to be a valid and reliable clinical interview. To determine the severity of PTSD symptoms in adults, two questionnaires with good psychometric properties are available (i.e., LANTS; IES-IDs). TF-CBT and EMDR therapy are the only psychotherapies recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the treatment of PTSD. However, the literature on the treatment of manifestations of PTSD in people with ID is limited to case reports showing positive outcomes. For persons with ID suffering from PTSD, EMDR therapy seems most suited, particularly considering its nonverbal character and the lack of need to do homework and practice outside the sessions. Controlled studies are needed to establish empirical support for PTSD treatments in this population at risk for the development of PTSD.






Liesbeth Mevissen
Robert Didden
Ad de Jongh

Original Work Citation

Mevissen, L., Didden, R., & de Jongh, A. (2016, February). Assessment and treatment of PTSD in people with intellectual disabilities. Comprehensive Guide to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 1-15. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-08613-2_95-2



“Assessment and treatment of PTSD in people with intellectual disabilities,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed December 2, 2020,

Output Formats