Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is unique among stress-related psychiatric illness in that exposure to a traumatic event is a required component of the diagnosis. Symptoms of PTSD include negative alterations in cognition and mood, hyperarousal, avoidance behavior, and re-experiencing of trauma. Furthermore, a significant minority of individuals who are exposed to trauma may also develop comorbid mental health issues such as major depressive disorder (MDD). Although most people experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, not everyone develops PTSD or MDD, which raises the question as to why some individuals are more susceptible to the effects of traumatic stress than others.
“A growing body of evidence indicates that the ability to flexibly express and suppress emotions, also known as expressive flexibility,3 supports successful adaptation to trauma and loss”, Rebecca Rodin, MSc, a medical student at McMaster University located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, noted in a poster presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in Atlanta, Georgia.
In a collaborative research effort, with a team of investigators from the New York University Langone Medical Center, Ms Rodin assessed whether individuals diagnosed with PTSD or depression, and who were previously exposed to combat trauma, exhibit alterations in expressive flexibility. To the best of their knowledge, the protective effect of emotional flexibility was yet to be examined in this group.