The hidden price and possible benefit of repeated traumatic exposure

Einat Levy-Gigi, Gal Richter-Levin, Hadas Okon-Singer, S. Kéri, George A. Bonanno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There is a growing evidence showing that first-responders who are frequently exposed to traumatic events as part of their occupational routine may pay a hidden price. Although they display low to moderate levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, similar to individuals with full-blown PTSD, they show impaired ability to process and react according to contextual demands. We aimed to test whether this impairment affects performance on simple unrelated tasks and its association with cumulative traumatic exposure and level of PTSD symptoms. Thirty-nine trauma-exposed criminal scene investigator police and 35 unexposed civilians matched for age, gender, and education performed a simple discrimination task in the presence of aversive pictures with low or high intensity. We predicted and found that trauma-exposed individuals failed to modify their behavior in accordance with levels of negative intensity. Hence they were equally distracted in both low and high negative intensity conditions, compared to unexposed controls who showed improved performance in low intensity conditions. Importantly, performance of trauma-exposed individuals on conditions of low intensity negatively correlated with their levels of PTSD symptoms. These results highlight the maladaptive tendency of individuals with repeated traumatic exposure to maintain the same behavior in low-intensity contextual conditions when it is no longer adequate. Interestingly however, in high-intensity conditions trauma-exposed individuals outperformed unexposed controls. Specifically, when completing simple tasks in high intensity conditions. The results suggest that repeated traumatic exposure has both positive and negative consequences on the way individuals interpret and react to their environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalStress
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2016

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders
Wounds and Injuries
Aptitude
Police
Research Personnel
Education

Keywords

  • Context
  • first-responders
  • functioning
  • hippocampus
  • negative intensity
  • repeated traumatic exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Physiology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

Cite this

Levy-Gigi, E., Richter-Levin, G., Okon-Singer, H., Kéri, S., & Bonanno, G. A. (2016). The hidden price and possible benefit of repeated traumatic exposure. Stress, 19(1), 1-7. https://doi.org/10.3109/10253890.2015.1113523

The hidden price and possible benefit of repeated traumatic exposure. / Levy-Gigi, Einat; Richter-Levin, Gal; Okon-Singer, Hadas; Kéri, S.; Bonanno, George A.

In: Stress, Vol. 19, No. 1, 02.01.2016, p. 1-7.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Levy-Gigi, E, Richter-Levin, G, Okon-Singer, H, Kéri, S & Bonanno, GA 2016, 'The hidden price and possible benefit of repeated traumatic exposure', Stress, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 1-7. https://doi.org/10.3109/10253890.2015.1113523
Levy-Gigi, Einat ; Richter-Levin, Gal ; Okon-Singer, Hadas ; Kéri, S. ; Bonanno, George A. / The hidden price and possible benefit of repeated traumatic exposure. In: Stress. 2016 ; Vol. 19, No. 1. pp. 1-7.
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