Individual differences in psychophysiological reactivity in adults with childhood abuse

Authors

  • Christian G. Schmahl,

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Freiburg Medical School, Germany
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Bernet M. Elzinga,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Leiden, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, The Netherlands
    • University of Leiden, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, PO Box 9555 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands.
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • J. Douglas Bremner

    1. Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Radiology, and Center for Positron Emission Tomography, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, and Atlanta VAMC, Decatur, GA
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Abstract

Little is known about the neurobiological correlates of stress-related disorders. In particular almost nothing is known about biological correlates of specific personality disorders that have been linked to stress. We measured heart rate and blood pressure reactivity in response to personalized traumatic scripts together with subjective psychological ratings in four women with a history of childhood abuse with no disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder. Psychophysiology as well as subjective ratings differed markedly between the four women, with elevated reactions found in PTSD and histrionic personality, and extreme decline in physiological reactivity associated with a dissociative response in the borderline patient. It is concluded that reactivity to traumatic reminders can be correlated with the existence of different stress-related diagnoses. Personality characteristics seem to have an influence on psychophysiological reactivity in patients with stress-related psychiatric disorders. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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