Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Laura Knight, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David LaPorte, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Pearl Berman, Ph.D.

Abstract

The question of how trauma affects health is highly salient, given the alarming prevalence of trauma in the United States. The negative impact of trauma on mental health has been well documented, and a growing body of literature establishes robust relations between trauma and adverse physical health outcomes. In the present study, experiential avoidance (EA) was examined as a potential mediator of trauma and physical health outcomes in college students. EA is the process that occurs when an individual is unwilling to access unwanted private events (e.g., thoughts, emotions, and sensations), and makes attempts to control their form or frequency even when doing so is unnecessary or causes harm. Undergraduate college students at a university in Western Pennsylvania with a history of trauma exposure were invited to complete several questionnaires regarding trauma exposure and emotional reactions, other stressful life events, EA, health behaviors, physical health outcomes, and basic demographic information. Data were analyzed with regression and bootstrap methods to evaluate the hypothesized relations between trauma, EA, and health outcomes. Results indicate that, consistent with past research, frequency of trauma exposure, severity of PTSD symptoms, and EA relate to poorer health outcomes. However, EA did not significantly mediate the relation between trauma and health outcomes when controlling for recent life experiences, whether or not PTSD symptoms were also controlled. Possible explanations of these findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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