Undergraduate Honors Theses

Title

Childhood Trauma and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: Does Disclosure of Trauma and Responses of Others Make a Difference?

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Mark Whisman

Abstract

Depressive and anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the world and can stem from many different facets of a person’s life. Prior research shows that there is an association between trauma and depressive and anxiety disorders and symptoms. However, less is known about whether victims’ disclosure of their traumas and responses of others is associated with symptom severity. This study evaluated the association between symptoms of depression and generalized anxiety disorder and the experience of disclosure and responses of others to several potentially traumatic events in childhood. Undergraduates completed a survey assessing symptoms of depressive and anxiety symptoms, exposure to potentially traumatic events in childhood, the degree to which participants disclosed the trauma to family members and other people, and the degree to which the responses of family members and other people to such disclosures were supportive. Results suggest that compared to people who did not report experiencing trauma, higher levels of depressive symptoms were reported by people who reported experiencing sexual trauma or being the victim of violence, whereas higher levels of anxiety symptoms were reported by people who reported experiencing sexual trauma or parental upheaval. Degree of disclosure was not significantly related to depressive or anxiety symptoms, whereas level of support to such disclosure was generally associated with lower levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms.

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