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This study examined the structure of the self-concept in a sample of sexual trauma survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to healthy controls using a self-descriptive card-sorting task. We explored whether individuals with PTSD possess a highly affectively-compartmentalized self-structure, whereby positive and negative self-attributes are sectioned off into separate components of self-concept (e.g. self as an employee, lover, mother). We also examined redundancy (i.e. overlap) of positive and negative self-attributes across the different components of self-concept.
Participants generated a set of self-aspects that reflected their own life (e.g. ‘self at work’). They were then asked to describe their self-aspects using list of positive or negative attributes.
Results revealed that, relative to the control group, the PTSD group used a greater proportion of negative attributes and had a more compartmentalized self-structure. However, there were no significant differences between the PTSD and control groups in positive or negative redundancy. Sensitivity analyses demonstrated that the key findings were not accounted for by comorbid diagnosis of depression.
Findings indicated that the self-structure is organized differently in those with PTSD, relative to those with depression or good mental health.
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