Individual differences in trauma disclosure

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2012 Jun;43(2):716-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2011.10.005. Epub 2011 Oct 29.


Background and objectives: Findings on disclosure and adjustment following traumatic events have been mixed. Better understanding of individual differences in disclosure may help us better understand reactions following trauma exposure. In particular, studying disclosure patterns for those with and without psychopathology and for different types of emotional experiences may help clarify the relationship between disclosure, event emotionality, trauma exposure, and PTSD.

Methods: In this study, 143 men and women with (n=67) and without (n=43) chronic PTSD and without trauma exposure (n=33) provided information on disclosure for a traumatic/severe life event, a negative event, and a positive event.

Results: Individuals with PTSD reported greater difficulty disclosing their traumatic event compared to those with trauma exposure no PTSD and those with no-trauma exposure. However, individuals with PTSD reported disclosing the traumatic event a similar number of times and with similar levels of detail to those with trauma exposure but no PTSD. Both sexual and childhood trauma were associated with greater disclosure difficulty.

Limitations: Although control event types (positive, negative) were selected to control for the passage of time and for general disclosure style, they do not control for salience of the event and results may be limited by control events that were not highly salient.

Conclusions: The present findings point to a dynamic conceptualization of disclosure, suggesting that the differential difficulty of disclosing traumatic events seen in individuals with PTSD is not simply a function of the amount of disclosure or the amount of details provided.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Report
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*
  • Young Adult