Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Risk, Resilience and Growth

This literature review examines empirical studies regarding the effects of risk and resilience on the development of posttraumatic stress disorder following exposure to trauma, and also the phenomena of posttraumatic growth. In addition, several non-empirical articles and books are reviewed for background information on posttraumatic stress disorder. The research studies were conducted primarily on subjects who had already experienced traumatic events, ranging from combat, civilian exposure to war, earthquakes, fires, terrorist acts, kidnapping and sexual assault or abuse. In addition, several studies were conducted on randomly selected community samples to determine the general prevalence of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder in the population. The literature reviewed, although non-exhaustive, strongly indicates that several factors influence both the risk of development of posttraumatic stress disorder and the severity of the disorder. Risk factors appear to be gender related, and include pre-trauma factors such as family of origin functioning, religious beliefs and sense of self-efficacy. In addition, post-trauma factors such as available support systems are shown to be important. It also appears that the type of trauma experienced has an impact on both development and severity of posttraumatic stress disorder. Threats of loss of life or physical harm are potent risks, as are low-level, long-term traumas such as residing in a combat zone. The factors of resilience and posttraumatic growth are also examined in detail. These findings have significant clinical and social implications, and prompt the development of additional research.

Elizabeth D. Goodchild
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