Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Psychopathology in Dancers

Med Probl Perform Art. 2015 Sep;30(3):157-62. doi: 10.21091/mppa.2015.3030.


This study investigated the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in pre-professional and professional dancers (n=209) who were exposed to traumatic events. Nine self-report instruments assessed (1) adverse childhood experiences, (2) past traumatic events, (3) coping strategies under stressful situations, and (4) fantasy proneness. The psychopathology variables included (5) anxiety, (6) depression, (7) dissociation, (8) shame, and (9)) PTSD diagnostic scale. Statistical calculations included descriptive, distributional, and multivariate analysis of covariates (MANCOVA). Results indicate that dancers had a significantly higher distribution of PTSD (20.2%) compared to the normal population (7.8%). They also had a higher frequency of family members with mental illness, an inability to speak about their trauma, and more suicidal thoughts. The PTSD group of dancers had higher levels of psychopathology (anxiety, depression, dissociation, and shame) and they had more childhood adversity and adult trauma. Compared to the no-PTSD group, the PTSD group had higher scores on fantasy proneness and emotion-oriented coping strategies. These coping strategies may increase psychological instability. Addressing early abuse and trauma is recommended. Clinicians may help dancers alter their internal working models that their self is worthless, others are abusive, and the world is threatening and dangerous. By understanding PTSD in dancers, medical and mental health treatment protocols may be established to address the debilitating, and often hidden, symptoms of PTSD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dancing / psychology*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Young Adult