ISSN: 1230-2813
Advances in Psychiatry and Neurology/Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii
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vol. 27
Original article

Sexual trauma type and its relation to alexithymia, dissociation and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among women survivors

Elżbieta Zdankiewicz-Ścigała, Maria Weronika Szczepaniak

Adv Psychiatry Neurol 2018; 27 (3): 211-217
Online publish date: 2018/09/30
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The aim of the study was to examine the strength of association between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as alexithymia and dissociation relative to persons, who have experienced one of the following types of trauma: trauma associated with rape or sexual violence (ST), other kinds of trauma associated with being a victim of a fire or an accident (NST).

The total number of participants amounted to 117 women, among whom 39 fell victims to sexual abuse (ST), 39 experienced non-sexual trauma (NST), and 39 denied ever having come through a traumatic situation (NT). Seventy five women (64.1%) admitted that they suffered from PTSD. Three standardised instrument were used to assess alexithymia (TAS-26), dissociation (CES) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PDS).

The ST group is characterised by significantly higher levels of alexithymia, but only in the form of identifying and describing one’s own emotions. The surprising finding was that ST and NT groups reported slightly different levels on the general scale of dissociation, which can be explained by the fact that NST group showed significantly more intensive dissociative tendencies in the form of self-absorption, while ST showed it in the form of depersonalisation and amnesia. In the ST group, significantly more serious PTSD-symptoms were confirmed, particularly regarding the avoidance of stimuli related with trauma. These findings suggest that trauma-type (sexual/non-sexual) might be a key factor determining the extent, kind and intensity of trauma-related disorders.

Dissociation and alexithymia are very important to the development and maintenance of the symptoms of PTSD. The high levels of alexithymia were associated with more serious problems of affective arousal and regulation of affect after trauma.


PTSD, trauma, dissociation, alexithymia

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