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Sub-Clinical Changes from Trauma

womanIt is well known that psychological trauma can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression and that the disorders can influence how a person responds to subsequent stressful situations.

New research suggests the traumatic event may also result in long-term changes even if the survivor doesn’t develop a clinical disorder.

Cornell researchers report that rapes, sudden deaths of loved ones, life-threatening accidents and other such traumas may result in enduring changes on how an individual views the world.

“The findings suggest that there may be persistent differences in the stress response in some trauma-exposed people, even if they do not exhibit PTSD or depression or both, and even if their trauma was years in the past,” said Barbara Ganzel, Cornell Ph.D. ’02, a lecturer in human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.

Ganzel led a team of Cornell researchers, whose study is published in a special issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress on the biology of trauma.

They assessed a group of women before and after they took their medical admissions tests (MCATs), a stressful experience for most people. Measuring levels of a stress hormone in saliva (cortisol), they found that women who had experienced trauma earlier in life (but who did not have PTSD or major depression) had lower levels cortisol leading up to and after the MCAT exam.

In addition, they found that the women who had experienced trauma kept a negative mood after the test, compared with other women, whose moods lifted significantly after the exams.

Ganzel suspects that the stress response system in these women have compensated or changed over time. The trauma-exposed women showed lower rather than higher levels of cortisol, Ganzel theorized, because “stress initially boosts cortisol output but after the stressor is over, cortisol falls below normal. These data suggest that, in some people, it may fall below normal and stay there, or that it develops a chronic tendency to dip lower than normal under stress.”

Source: Cornell University

Sub-Clinical Changes from Trauma

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Sub-Clinical Changes from Trauma. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2007/11/21/sub-clinical-changes-from-trauma/1567.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.