Information Processing in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Anke Ehlers, Thomas Ehring and Birgit Kleim

in The Oxford Handbook of Traumatic Stress Disorders

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195399066
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Information Processing in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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  • Clinical Psychology
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The chapter reviews the contribution of information processing models to understanding the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder. Individual differences in cognitive processing during the trauma and basic memory mechanism, such as priming and associative learning, may help explain why people with PTSD involuntarily re-experience parts of the trauma in a wide range of situations. Individual differences in how people remember traumatic events may influence the likelihood of developing PTSD. Attentional bias to trauma-related cues and threatening interpretations of the trauma or its aftermath help explain why people with PTSD have many symptoms of anxiety even though the trauma is over. Cognitive strategies people use to deal with memories of the trauma, such as effortful suppression of trauma memories and rumination, help explain why some develop chronic PTSD whereas many recover from trauma. Finally, there may be cognitive vulnerability factors that increase the probability of developing PTSD in response to trauma. Directions for future research are outlined.

Keywords: posttraumatic stress disorder; cognition; selective attention; memory; priming; appraisal; conditioning; rumination; thought suppression

Article.  21548 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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