Posttraumatic growth: A deceptive illusion or a coping pattern that facilitates functioning?

Eti Boehm-Tabib, Marc Gelkopf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Several studies have raised doubts about the effectiveness of posttraumatic growth (PTG) as a mechanism that promotes functioning. This study explored this issue in several directions: First, it examined whether functioning is negatively associated with posttraumatic symptoms (PTS), dissociation, and depression. Second, it determined whether PTG is positively associated with functioning. Finally, the study investigated whether PTG moderates the relationship between functioning and PTS, as well as between functioning and dissociation and depression. Method: The participants were 301 residents of an area exposed to the 2006 war in northern Israel. A structured questionnaire assessing posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, dissociation, PTG, and functioning was used 6 years following the war. Results: Functioning was found to be negatively associated with PTS, dissociation, and depression. PTG was found to be positively associated with functioning. In addition, PTG was found to moderate the relationship between functioning and PTS, as well as between functioning and dissociation and depression. Conclusions: Contrary to the approach that considers PTG to be an illusion, and possibly even a mechanism that may hinder a return to efficient functioning, the findings of this research suggest that PTG may reflect a growth phenomenon that includes functioning, thus implying a characteristic of the individual's relation to the world. Therefore, it may be concluded that PTG is not an illusion—a process that occurs only in one's head—but rather reflects actual functioning. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) Clinical Impact Statement: Mental health professionals face a dilemma that is reflected in the professional literature: Does posttraumatic growth (PTG) reflect an illusion or functioning? The research findings lead to two conclusions in this respect. First, higher PTG correlates with functioning. Second, PTG is related with higher functioning among people who suffer from posttraumatic responses, dissociation, and depression. The findings support PTG interventions among patients. They indicate a need for different means of intervention, corresponding to situational and personal characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association

Keywords

  • functioning
  • illusion
  • posttrauma
  • posttraumatic growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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