Exposure to trauma is known to cause extreme stress. For some individuals, the trauma impacts them significantly enough to cause posttraumatic stress (PTSD). Childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse are common factors that put someone at increased risk for PTSD and other mental health problems. Mood regulation can also be negatively impacted by traumatic experience, and children who have been victimized often struggle with negative mood regulation (NMR). Adults who experience traumatic events are more vulnerable to both PTSD and NMR as well. Police officers are especially susceptible because they are exposed to traumatic situations numerous times throughout their careers. Understanding how NMR, PTSD, adult trauma exposure and childhood trauma interact with one another and predict one another can help clinicians better treat clients who suffer with these issues.
Madhur Kulkarni, of the Center for Healthcare Evaluation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California, recently looked at this relationship in a sample of over 140 retired police department officers. The study revealed that the officers with the highest levels of PTSD and NMR were those that had experienced significant abuse during their childhoods. However, the findings did not show that NMR increased PTSD in abuse survivors, but instead indicated that PTSD influenced NMR in those participants. Therefore, Kulkarni believes that the findings demonstrate abuse survivors may have challenges regulating their moods as a result of the PTSD, not due to the abuse alone. Kulkarni also found that the officers with a history of childhood abuse did not have increased risk for exposure to adult trauma.
Of interest was also the discovery that NMR was only related to childhood victimization and not exposure to trauma in adulthood. This finding suggests that trauma suffered during childhood impairs a person’s ability to manage their emotional reactions, and this effect is not as evident when the traumatic exposure occurs during adulthood. Kulkarni noted that the sample of officers all had adult trauma exposure but believes that these findings still provide evidence of a unique link. Kulkarni added, “In summary, our findings potentially clarify the commonly observed relationship among childhood trauma, adult emotion dysregulation, and adult PTSD symptom severity.”
Kulkarni, M., Pole, N., & Timko, C. (2012). Childhood victimization, negative mood regulation, and adult PTSD severity. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027746
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.