Is the concept of "repression" useful for the understanding chronic PTSD?


Theories concerning the value of avoiding versus attending to trauma-related thoughts provide mixed support for specific coping strategies such as repression. The goal of this study is to examine the usefulness of the concept of repression in understanding chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One hundred and fifty individuals who had been in a motor vehicle accident were included. Participants were classified into four groups (repressors, low anxious, high anxious, and defensively high anxious) based on methodology introduced by Weinberger et al. [J. Abnormal Psychol. 88 (1979) 369]. These four groups were compared on measures of PTSD symptomatology, anxiety, depression, and where appropriate, perceived pain and disability. Results revealed a fairly consistent pattern of group differences such that repressors reported fewer PTSD symptoms, fewer additional anxiety disorders, less depression, and less physical disability due to pain relative to the high anxious and defensively high anxious groups. Regression analyses examining the separate and interactive effects of anxiety and social desirability to predict PTSD symptomatology showed that the majority of the variance was explained by anxiety. In many respects, these data suggest that repression may not be a useful concept for understanding chronic PTSD. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Behaviour Research and Therapy