Depression and Dissociation as Predictors of Physical Health Symptoms Among Female Rape Survivors With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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Objective: To investigate the relative contributions of depression and dissociation, as well as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to physical health symptoms and to examine the relationships among somatic symptoms, PTSD, depression, and dissociation in relation to childhood and adult trauma exposure. Method: Cross-sectional data are from 132 female rape survivors with PTSD assessed before engaging in a study of trauma-focused cognitive therapy for PTSD. Measures included the Pennebaker Inventory of Limbic Languidness, Clinician Administered PTSD Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, Trauma Symptom Inventory-Dissociation Subscale, Childhood Sexual Abuse Exposure Questionnaire, and Assessing Environments-III-Physical Punishment Scale. Results: Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that only dissociative and depression symptoms contributed significantly to physical health symptoms. Similarly, among the subsample of women with either childhood sexual or physical abuse, depression and dissociation were significant predictors of somatic symptoms. However, among women without childhood abuse, only dissociation significantly predicted somatic symptoms. Conclusion: Understanding the psychological and biological mechanisms that link childhood versus adult trauma exposure, PTSD, and comorbid depression or dissociation to physical health symptoms may aid development of individualized treatments for the physical and psychological consequences of trauma.

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