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Interrelationships Among Three Avoidant Coping Styles and Their Relationship to Trauma, Peritraumatic Distress, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Hetzel-Riggin, Melanie D. PhD; Meads, Christina L. MS

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: February 2016 - Volume 204 - Issue 2 - p 123–131
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000434
Original Articles
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Research suggests the existence of distinct avoidant coping mechanisms after trauma: peritraumatic dissociation, secondary alexithymia, and experiential avoidance. Within the Emotional Processing Model (Foa and Kozak, Psychol Bull. 99:20–35, 1986), research suggests that each of these avoidant coping mechanisms comes into play at a different phase of traumatic stress development. The present study sought to confirm if these three avoidant coping mechanisms are different constructs and how they relate to each other and the experience of trauma, peritraumatic distress, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A total of 227 participants with a trauma history completed measures on trauma experience, peritraumatic distress, peritraumatic dissociation, secondary alexithymia, experiential avoidance, and PTSD. Structural equation modeling confirmed that peritraumatic dissociation, secondary alexithymia, and experiential avoidance influence different phases of the development of traumatic stress problems. These results also confirm that the Emotional Process Model provides a good context for understanding the interrelationships among the avoidant coping mechanisms.

*School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, Erie, PA; and †ABC Counseling & Family Services, Springfield, IL.

Send reprint requests to Melanie D. Hetzel-Riggin, PhD, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, Erie, PA 16563. E-mail: mdh33@psu.edu.

A 400-word abstract of part of this manuscript was presented at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL, in May 2014.

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