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The generalisation of posttraumatic stress symptoms following motor vehicle accidents


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Clear, Sophie 2006 , 'The generalisation of posttraumatic stress symptoms following motor vehicle accidents', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Clear, Sophie
Keywords: Traumatic shock, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Traffic accidents
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

No access or viewing until June 2008. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2006. Includes bibliographical references

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