This multisite study assessed the prevalence of exposure to traumatic events and associated symptoms among undergraduate students (N=1,528) using online surveys. Most students (85%) reported having experienced a traumatic event in their lifetime (Time 1) and 21% reported experiencing an event over a 2-month period during college (Time 2). The most common event reported at both time points was the unexpected death of a loved one. Lifetime exposures to family violence, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual assault were associated with higher current distress levels. When nominated as a worst event, sexual assault was associated with the most posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Events that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror and those that were intentionally caused were associated with higher distress levels. Total number of lifetime traumas consistently had the highest associations with distress levels. Implications for counseling psychology practice, training, and research are discussed.
Women with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Have Larger Decreases in Heart Rate Variability during Stress Tasks09/01/2009
The relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and high frequency heart rate variability (HFHRV) was investigated during a resting baseline period and two 4-minute laboratory speech tasks. Participants were 20 women with PTSD and 20 age- and gender-matched controls. Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) cardiac control was measured as HF-HRV (0.12–0.40 Hz) using power spectrum analysis. Participants with PTSD had significantly greater reductions in HF-HRV during two speech tasks (trauma recall and mental arithmetic) than control. These results suggest that PTSD is related to the magnitude of decrease in parasympathetic cardiac control during stress in women. Health implications of altered PNS activity associated with PTSD deserve further study.