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Thesis

Psychodynamic, biological and feminist theoretical conceptualizations of psychological trauma

25 July 1995

Abstract

Psychological trauma is a subject that has received increasing attention within the fields of clinical psychology and psychiatry. The association between exposure to traumatic events and the subsequent appearance of psychological symptoms has long been recognized. Documents indicating vivid descriptions of nightmares, sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts and recollections of trauma have been uncovered from centuries past. However, "the relationship between major trauma, such as war and natural disasters, and its psychological sequelae received little attention until the late 19th century (Jones & Barlow, 1990, p. 299). It was not until this time that systematic research was undertaken to explore the impact of psychological trauma. A number of factors contributed to this development.

While our understanding of traumatic stress disorders has increased significantly during the second half of this century, "even now, the question of who develops adjustment difficulties following a trauma is mysterious and puzzling" (Jones & Barlow, 1993, p. 299). The absence of symptoms in some people exposed to similar traumatic events is "perhaps the most important function of any etiological model" (Jones & Barlow, 1993, p. 300). An approach to the study of trauma that integrates psychodynamic, biological and feminist theories can facilitate this search and contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of traumatic stress disorders.


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