Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Involves Disrupted Anxiety-Buffer Mechanisms

Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Forthcoming

35 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2011

See all articles by Pelin Kesebir

Pelin Kesebir

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

Aleksandra Luszczynska

Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities

Tom Pyszczynski

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Charles Benight

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

We present anxiety buffer disruption theory (ABDT) and report a study conducted with Polish female victims of domestic abuse that provides empirical support for the theory. ABDT builds on terror management theory, and posits that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves a disruption in anxiety buffering mechanisms which normally protect people against anxiety. When traumatic events lead to a breakdown of this system, people become vulnerable to recurrent bouts of anxiety, which leads to the various PTSD symptoms. We tested the ABDT hypothesis that trauma-exposed individuals with high levels of PTSD symptoms and risk factors for PTSD, such as high peritraumatic dissociation or low coping self-efficacy, do not respond to mortality reminders the way psychologically healthier people do. Whereas people typically respond to mortality reminders with increased worldview defense, indicating an intact anxiety buffering mechanism, we found that individuals with PTSD and associated risk factors do not display such responses.

Keywords: Trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder, terror management theory, death and dying, domestic violence

Suggested Citation

Kesebir, Pelin and Luszczynska, Aleksandra and Pyszczynski, Tom and Benight, Charles, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Involves Disrupted Anxiety-Buffer Mechanisms (2011). Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1802735

Pelin Kesebir (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Center for Investigating Healthy Minds ( email )

1500 Highland Avenue, Suite S119
Waisman Center
Madison, WI 53705-2280
United States

Aleksandra Luszczynska

Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities ( email )

Chodakowska 19/31
Warsaw, 03-815
Poland

Tom Pyszczynski

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs ( email )

1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-7150
United States

Charles Benight

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs ( email )

1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-7150
United States

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