Trauma severity and initial reactions as precipitating factors for posttraumatic stress symptoms and chronic dissociation in former political prisoners

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Abstract

This study explores the relationships among trauma severity, initial trauma reactions, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and dissociation in a group of 98 former East-German political prisoners. Trauma severity and initial reactions were assessed using a persecution checklist and a coping process questionnaire. PTSD symptoms were assessed through a structured clinical interview. Chronic dissociation was evaluted using the Dissociative Experiences Scale. The two assumptions of the study were confirmed by structural equation modeling: (I) Lifetime PTSD symptoms were predominantly predicted by initial reactions to trauma and (2) chronic dissociation was predominantly predicted by trauma severity. The first finding is discussed in relation to the participants' initial trauma processing. The second finding is discussed especially in the context of trauma duration and dissociation-prone coping attempts. Limitations concerning the long-term interval between traumatization and data collection are discussed.

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