A dual representation theory of posttraumatic stress disorder

Psychol Rev. 1996 Oct;103(4):670-86. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.103.4.670.


A cognitive theory of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is proposed that assumes traumas experienced after early childhood give rise to 2 sorts of memory, 1 verbally accessible and 1 automatically accessible through appropriate situational cues. These different types of memory are used to explain the complex phenomenology of PTSD, including the experiences of reliving the traumatic event and of emotionally processing the trauma. The theory considers 3 possible outcomes of the emotional processing of trauma, successful completion, chronic processing, and premature inhibition of processing We discuss the implications of the theory for research design, clinical practice, and resolving contradictions in the empirical data.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attention*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Combat Disorders / therapy
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy