Personality and the Etiology and Expression of PTSD: A Three-Factor Model Perspective


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Abstract

This review provides an overview of research on the influence of personality on the development, course, and behavioral expression of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The existing literature is discussed in relation to three broad-band personality traits that have been emphasized in personality and psychopathology research: negative emotionality (NEM), positive emotionality (PEM), and constraint/inhibition (CON). The primary conclusion derived from this review is that high NEM is the primary personality risk factor for the development of PTSD whereas low CON and low PEM serve as moderating factors that influence the form and expression of the disorder through their interaction with NEM. From this standpoint, a premorbid personality characterized by high NEM combined with low PEM is thought to predispose the trauma-exposed individual towards an internalizing form of posttraumatic response characterized by marked social avoidance, anxiety, and depression. On the other hand, high NEM combined with low CON is hypothesized to predict an externalizing form of posttraumatic reaction characterized by marked impulsivity, aggression, and a propensity towards antisociality and substance abuse.

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