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Linguistic Predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Following 11 September 2001

Authors

  • Wendy D'Andrea,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, The New School, New York, USA
    • Wendy D'Andrea, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, 7th Floor, The New School, New York, NY, 10011, USA.

      E-mail: dandreaw@newschool.edu

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  • Pearl H. Chiu,

    1. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
    2. Virginia Tech Department of Psychology, and Salem VA Medical Center, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, USA
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    • These authors contributed equally to this project.

  • Brooks R. Casas,

    1. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
    2. Virginia Tech Department of Psychology, and Salem VA Medical Center, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, USA
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    • These authors contributed equally to this project.

  • Patricia Deldin

    1. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
    2. Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
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  • These data were collected in the Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138.

Summary

Prior research has linked content analysis drawn from text narratives to psychopathology in trauma survivors. This study used a longitudinal design to determine whether linguistic elements of narrative memories of first hearing about the events of 11 September 2001 predict later post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Narratives and self-report PTSD symptoms were collected within 1 week and again 5 months after 9/11 in 40 undergraduates. People who used more “we” words at Time 1 had fewer acute PTSD symptoms. Use of more cognitive mechanism words, more religion words, more first-person singular pronouns, and fewer anxiety words at Time 1 were related to more chronic PTSD symptoms. Linguistic characteristics accounted for variance in chronic PTSD symptoms above and beyond acute PTSD symptoms. This study provides evidence that lasting PTSD symptoms can be predicted through language in the immediate aftermath of the trauma. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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