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The generalisation of posttraumatic stress symptoms following motor vehicle accidents

posted on 2023-05-27, 00:38 authored by Clear, Sophie
Increased psychophysiological arousal in response to trauma cues is a symptom of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Emotional and cognitive reactions to traumatic events are also symptoms of PTSD. Most commonly, research into increased arousal in particular has focused on the differences between reactions to trauma reminders of individuals with and without PTSD. However, relatively few studies have explicitly examined whether increased arousal as a consequence of a traumatic event can generalise to other situations post trauma. Further, the possibility of emotional and cognitive reactions to traumatic events generalising to other stressful life events has not been specifically examined. This investigation was concerned with identifying whether the increased arousal, emotional reactions and cognitive responses associated with posttraumatic stress reactions remain trauma specific or whether it is possible for these symptoms to generalise to other non-trauma related stressful events. Three groups were involved in this study including individuals who had developed PTSD as a result of a motor vehicle accident (MVA), a group who no longer met the diagnostic criteria for Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and did not progress to PTSD as a result of a MVA, and a group of individuals who had been in a MVA but who had not developed psychological symptoms. An intensive design was employed with all individuals being involved in all studies. Four studies were conducted using this design strategy. Initially, participants' diagnoses were determined through the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale [CAPS] (Blake, Weathers, Nagy, Kaloupek, Charney, & Keane, 1998) and the Acute Stress Disorder Scale [ASDS] (Bryant, Moulds, & Guthrie, 2000). In Study One, self-report questionnaires were administered to determine demographic characteristics, MVA details and the possible influence of individual factors related to diagnoses. The PTSD group was older than the ASD or Control groups but no other demographic differences between the groups were apparent. The CAPS successfully discriminated the three diagnostic groups: PTSD, ASD and Control. As expected the PTSD and ASD groups reported more posttraumatic stress symptoms than did the Control group. The ASD group also had a greater tendency to dissociate in general and was associated with elevated levels of general symptomatology compared to the PTSD and Control groups. In respect to cognitive factors, ASD was again linked to increased endorsements of beliefs concerning approval, guilt and predetermination. However, both PTSD and ASD were associated with stronger beliefs related to fear than was the Control group. Study Two examined the psychophysiological response to the MVA and two stressful events, one from before the MVA and one post MVA, and a nonstressful event. The stressful events were either similar to the traumatic MVA or general life stressors unrelated to the traumatic MVA. A four stage guided imagery methodology was used to examine psychophysiological responses to these events. The responses of all diagnostic groups were similar with the MVA and stressful events eliciting greater arousal than did the non-stressful event. In Study Three, visual analogue scales (VASs) were administered to determine the emotional reactions of individuals to the traumatic, stressful and non-stressful events. Differences were also apparent between reactions to the trauma specific and generalised non-trauma related stressful events. Despite the lesser objective severity, reactions to the trauma specific stressful event occurring after the traumatic MVA were found to be identical to reactions to the traumatic MVA itself. However, in response to stressful events unrelated to the traumatic event, the emotional reactions reflected the nature of the events


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Copyright 2006 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). No access or viewing until June 2008. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2006. Includes bibliographical references

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