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Emotional Dissociation in Response to Trauma

An Information-Processing Approach
  • Edna B. Foa
  • Diana Hearst-Ikeda

Abstract

Pathological reactions to trauma and extreme stress have been noted in the psychological literature for over a century. These reactions were codified in the psychiatric literature as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (American Psychiatric Association, 1980). The diagnosis of PTSD is made when posttrauma symptoms occur in three domains: emotional, cognitive, and visual reexperiencing of the trauma; avoidance of trauma-relevant stimuli; and general arousal. Since the inception of PTSD as a diagnostic entity, experts have focused on the fear and anxiety components of the disorder (Foa, Steketee, & Rothbaum, 1989; Keane, Zimering, & Caddell, 1985). More recently, trauma researchers have become interested in the phenomenon of affective and cognitive avoidance that is commonly observed following a trauma and has been referred to as dissociation (e.g., Spiegel, Hunt, & Dondershine, 1988), denial (Horowitz, 1986; van der Kolk, 1987), or numbing (e.g., Foa, Riggs, & Gershuny, 1995; Horowitz, Wilner, Kaltreider, & Alvarez, 1980; Litz, 1993; van der Kolk & Ducey, 1989). Common to these constructs is a diminished awareness of one’s emotions or thoughts, which is hypothesized to be motivated by self-preservation.

Keywords

Emotional Processing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Borderline Personality Disorder Rape Victim Dissociative Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edna B. Foa
    • 1
  • Diana Hearst-Ikeda
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for the Treatment and Study of AnxietyMedical College of Pennsylvania, Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric InstitutePhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Women’s Health and Sciences DivisionBoston Department of Veterans Affairs Medical CenterBostonUSA

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