Emotion, memory and the self in complex post-traumatic stress following repeated interpersonal trauma
Individuals who experience repeated interpersonal trauma often present with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with more complex features than those exposed to single-incident traumas. However, there is contention in the literature regarding whether PTSD and Complex PTSD can be conceptualised as different disorders, and there is currently no consensus regarding whether tailoring current evidence-based interventions for PTSD for complex features will improve treatment outcomes. This thesis is structured as a series of five stand-alone research papers, with each addressing one of the overarching themes associated with PTSD following repeated traumas (outlined in chapter one); The first study (chapter 2) explores the structure of autobiographical memory, by examining the organisation of past autobiographical knowledge. The second study (chapter 3) explores self-identity by examining the structure of the self-concept. The third study (chapter 4) explores the prevalence of pseudohallucinations in a sample of adult survivors of repeated physical and sexual trauma. The fourth study (chapter 5) explores the relationship between emodiversity and clinical manifestations of PTSD. The fifth study (chapter six) outlines the development and preliminary evaluation of a group intervention for individuals following repeated interpersonal trauma. Finally, in the General Discussion (chapter seven) the findings from all five research papers are considered in light of current theories of PTSD. I critically evaluate whether the extant theories are adequate in their conceptualisations of more complex presentations of the disorder and whether the current treatments available are adequate in effectively treating more complex presentations of PTSD. This thesis contributes to the conceptualisation of CPTSD through the identification of particular symptoms in a client group who have experienced repeated interpersonal trauma, but only with more research in this area can we further refine our understanding and of and develop efficacious treatments for these more complex presentations of CPTSD. Limitations and future directions are considered.
Hitchcock, Dr Caitlin