PTSD and Depressive Symptoms in 911 Telecommunicators: The Role of Peritraumatic Distress and World Assumptions in Predicting Risk

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Continued exposure to trauma increases risk for both depression and PTSD. This may be particularly true for individuals with work-related exposure to trauma such as 911 telecommunicators, a group with significant exposure to work-related trauma that has received limited empirical attention. The present study examines current symptoms of PTSD and depression in telecommunicators and the extent to which peritraumatic distress and world assumptions interact to predict psychopathology. A sample of 171 911 telecommunicators from across the country completed a survey that assessed current symptoms of depression and PTSD, as well as exposure to different types of work-related events, peritraumatic distress, and world assumptions. Symptoms of PTSD and depression were significantly related to peritraumatic distress, self-worth, and benevolence of the world. Analyses revealed that the relationship between peritraumatic distress and both current depression and PTSD was significantly stronger for individuals who reported more negative assumptions about the benevolence of the world and self-worth. Further, positive assumptions regarding the controllability of the world were associated with PTSD, particularly in individuals who reported high peritraumatic distress. The results suggest that 911 telecommunicators experience significant work-related exposure to trauma, yet retain somewhat positive world assumptions. The important role of world assumptions in explaining the link between peritraumatic distress and posttrauma psychopathology in the form of current PTSD and depression is discussed.

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