Although previous studies have rarely examined predictors of acute emotional responses to war trauma, this "natural laboratory" study aimed to examine the role that individual differences in dispositional optimism and self-esteem play in the development of acute symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and dissociative experiences. A sample of 140 female adults exposed to missile and rocket fire during an eruption of violence in the Middle East in November 2012 was assessed during real-time exposure. The results demonstrate inverse associations between dispositional optimism and acute symptoms of GAD and dissociation. The associations were accounted for by individual differences in self-esteem. In addition, individuals with low levels of dispositional optimism demonstrated a higher risk for acute GAD and dissociative experiences, in part because of their low levels of self-esteem. Theoretical and clinical implications of the findings are discussed.
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