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Individual Differences in Trauma Disclosure

NCJ Number
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry Volume: 43 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2012 Pages: 716-723
Michele Bedard-Gilligan; Jeff Jaeger; Aileen Echiverri-Cohen; Lori A. Zoellner
Date Published
June 2012
8 pages
A total of 143 men and women with (n=67) and without (n=43) chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and without trauma exposure (n=33) provided information on disclosure to family, friends, or providers for a traumatic/severe life event, a negative event, and a positive event.
Some research has found that disclosure of emotional events or verbal revelation of experiences to friends, family, or providers may reduce distress (Paine and Hansen, 2002; Pennebaker Zech, and Rime, 2001). Talking about emotional experiences may promote processing and achieve integration and extinction of the memories. The current study found that individuals with PTSD reported having greater difficulty in disclosing their traumatic event compared to those with trauma exposure but no PTSD and those with no trauma exposure; however, individuals with PTSD reported disclosing the traumatic event a similar number of times and with similar levels of detail as those with trauma exposure but no PTSD. Both sexual and childhood trauma were associated with greater disclosure difficulty. These findings point to a dynamic conceptualization of disclosure, which suggests that the differential difficulty of disclosing traumatic events observed in individuals with PTSD is not simply a function of the amount of disclosure or the amount of details provided. Study limitations are reported, which note that although control event types (positive, negative) were selected to control for the passage of time and for general disclosure style, they do not control for salience of the event. Results may be limited by control events that were not highly salient. 5 tables and 55 references