Undergrads' Words after Trauma Can Predict PTSD

By Finn, Robert | Clinical Psychiatry News, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Undergrads' Words after Trauma Can Predict PTSD


Finn, Robert, Clinical Psychiatry News


HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. -- Language use in the immediate aftermath of a trauma can predict who will develop lasting symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, according to a poster presentation by Wendy D'Andrea-Merrins at the annual meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

The study involved 40 undergraduate students who were assessed for symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 1 week after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and again 5 months later. At the first assessment, each student was given a blank sheet of paper and was asked to describe in as much detail as possible how he or she had heard about the attacks.

Ms. D'Andrea-Merrins, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and her colleagues analyzed the writing samples, quantifying such factors as the use of pronouns, the use of words signaling affective processes--such as anxiety and anger--the use of words signaling cognitive processes, and the use of words about death and religion. They found several significant correlations between the linguistic analysis and PTSD symptoms. …

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