Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Involves Disrupted Anxiety-Buffer Mechanisms
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Forthcoming
35 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2011
Date Written: 2011
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
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