Patterns of construing and post-traumatic stress disorder
Four studies were conducted in order to investigate the way people construe their most stressful and traumatic experiences. Personal constl1,lct theory was the main theoretical approach used in all studies but the thesis also drew upon social const~ctionist perspectives. In study one, a clinical sample of people diagnosed with PTSD (n = 36) was tested using repertory grids and questionnaires. The study tested the viability of the personal construct model of PTSD (Sewell et aI, 1996). Results did not support the model and a new personal construct model was proposed. In study two, an investigation into a number of methodological issues relating to the hierarchical-classes analysis (HICbAS), as applied to PTSD conceptualizations within the personal construct model, was conducted. Results revealed that its use in the analysis of repertory grid data was based on flawed assumptions. Corrective suggestions were proposed and the TUCKER-HICLAS software was introduced in order to improve the analysis of repertory grid data. In study three, a student sample (n = 114) was divided into groups according to some personality traits (high/low anxiety, repression, dissociatIon, thought suppression). The students completed repertory grids using as elements life events, including the most stressful event of their lives, and consequently their patterns of construing these events were compared between them as well as with the patterns found among the PTSD ' , patients from Study One. Results were counterintuitive in the sense that it was found that the low anxious group was the most similar to the PTSD group. A model based on the concepts of anticipation and epistemic control was proposed to account for the findings. In study four, an asylum seeker and refugee sample (n = 5) diagnosed with PTSD was interviewed and asked to complete repertory grids. Results showed that this population tends to construe their traumas in terms of constructs expressing social relations rather than psychological states, as commonly found among non-refugee people. Central to their construing of trauma was found to be the concept of 'limbo'. The psychosocial effects of limbo were explored through the anthropological concept of liminality. It was propose'd that issues of functionality should be incorporated into the diagnosis and treatment of trauma among asylum seekers and refugees as well as the general population.