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The Role of Hardiness in”PTSD”.

May 23

G’day to you all! I thought I would get back to our literature review and give “Bobbles” a well deserved rest from my abuse. In this article I would like to share with you the research on resilience as it pertains to “hardiness” as a mediating variable. It seems that some of us are “hardier” than others and that this can have an effect on how we respond to a traumatic exposure.

There is no disputing the fact that not everyone develops “PTSD” following a traumatic exposure. This fact makes the study of resilience both fascinating and critical to an understanding of the human response to potentially traumatic events. In order to understand the human adaptation to a traumatic exposure it is crucial that we understand the factors of vulnerability and resilience.

Psychological investigators have delineated the difference between chronic, non-life threatening stress and acute life threatening stress: the consequences of the latter are thought to lift, upon the termination of the stressor; be sudden and impactful, triggering rapid and sudden change in physiological and emotional processes. The chronic reaction showed effects that developed over time; with physiological and emotional processes degrading over the same time; the sense of being overwhelmed and struggling to cope with the long term consequences of prolonged stress often resulting in feelings of fear.

Several studies examined trauma, resilience, and “PTSD” in relation to war, internment, civil violence, and terrorism. The results from this work suggested that both male and female veterans who scored high on “hardiness” (i.e. control, commitment, challenge) exhibited fewer symptoms of “PTSD”. Not only was “hardiness” associated with fewer symptoms, it also seemed to contribute to the subjects’ ability to establish relationships that aided in coping when symptoms were present. These results are thought to reflect the interaction between personality characteristics, coping styles, and the use of social support.

A group of studies looked at stress, and the presence of “PTSD” in veterans of the Gulf War. The data here are similar; they support the notion that as a dimension of personality, “hardiness” can reduce the effects of war-zone stress, and post-war coping with civilian stressors.

I think that’s enough for now. I imagine your heads are swimming? I’ll ask again, do you see how this post-traumatic stress phenomenon is not a one size fits all kind of thing? That is, whenever a human is exposed to a potentially traumatic stressor we do not all respond in the same way. The literature is suggesting to us that some of us are “hardier” than others. Those that seem more vulnerable lack social support, have an avoidant coping style, and a strong tendency to “self blame” (wallow in guilt?).

I’ll conclude by presenting a very interesting finding. It is well accepted that less than 30% of combat veterans manifest a lifetime occurrence of “PTSD”; in contrast, POW’s have a lifetime occurrence of 67%, suggesting that the greater the torture and weight loss during imprisonment the greater the post-traumatic symptomology. Mediating variables included pre-military trauma, personality type, age, and post-deployment social support.

Next time we’ll dig into the predictors of severity of the post-traumatic response, until then……..

“IF YOU CAN LOOK AT AND TALK ABOUT YOUR OWN THOUGHTS, OBVIOUSLY THEY AREN’T YOU; JUST AS YOU CAN OBSERVE AND TALK ABOUT THE MESSAGE OF A POEM WITHOUT BEING THE POET; OR THE PLOT OF A NOVEL WITHOUT BEING THE NOVELIST.”

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

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2 Comments
  1. Doctor to patient: “How are you both today?” Patient to Doctor: “Both? I’m by myself.” Doctor: “Really, who did you leave at home, your thinking self or your observing self?” Patient: “I’m sorry, I’m becoming embarrassed because I know I should understand what you are getting at.” Doctor: “Aha!! You’re both here!!”

  2. The young son of a great warrior asked his father, “Father, tell me of the bravest thing you ever did?” The young lad anticipated a wonderful tale of physical triumph over significant adversity. His towering father looked down upon him and said, “I thought for myself…….out loud.”

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