Startle reactivity and PTSD symptoms in a community sample of women

Psychiatry Research
A M MedinaG Margolin

Abstract

Exaggerated startle and PTSD symptoms have been investigated primarily in relation to acute or Type I stressors. The present study examined PTSD symptoms and startle eyeblink response in relation to chronic or Type II stressors. Type II stressors were operationally defined as high levels of childhood corporal punishment and high levels of current partner aggression. This study recruited a sample of 52 women from a metropolitan community and administered several questionnaires assessing experience of corporal punishment in childhood, current intimate partner aggression and level of PTSD symptoms. Following questionnaires, women were presented with eight auditory startle probes (white noise). Results showed that both childhood corporal punishment and intimate partner aggression were associated with women's PTSD symptom scores. However, only PTSD symptom scores were associated with reduced startle. Results are discussed in light of Type I and Type II stressors, and recent suggestions in the PTSD literature that a subgroup of individuals may experience physiological suppression rather than heightened physiological reactivity.

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