New research suggests women who believe they have control over life circumstances and have strong social support experience better psychological recovery after an assault.
Investigators studied 159 women who had been exposed to at least one assault-related, potentially traumatic event. They found that 30 percent developed major depressive disorder and 21 percent developed post-traumatic stress disorder.
Researchers attribute the development of depression to self-blame — a common factor among survivors of assault.
Investigators also found that mastery, or the degree to which an individual perceives control and influence over life circumstances, and social support, mitigated psychological damage.
Specifically, women who displayed mastery did not develop a trauma-related psychiatric disorder after assault exposure, while mastery and post-traumatic growth were related to psychiatric recovery. These factors, however, were less established in women with a current psychiatric disorder.
The study, found in the journal Brain and Behavior, has significance for the health and well-being of women, and for identifying individuals who are most in need of resilience-promoting interventions.
“Women exposed to assault may present with post-trauma depression in lieu of post-traumatic stress disorder. Resilience factors like mastery and social support may attenuate the deleterious effects of an assault,” said lead author Heather L. Rusch.
“The next step is to determine the extent that these factors may be fostered through clinical intervention.”