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Behav Res Ther. 2004 Sep;42(9):1069-88.

Emotion-specific and emotion-non-specific components of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): implications for a taxonomy of related psychopathology.

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Emotion Research Group, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Medical Research Council, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 2EF, UK.


Many cognitive theories of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including our own SPAARS model, propose that one basis of the disorder is the cognitive system's persistent failure to resolve discrepancies between trauma-related information and the content of pre-existing mental representations, such as schemas. This leads to the characteristic PTSD symptom pattern of re-experiencing and avoidance of trauma-related material. Furthermore, the nature of this unresolved discrepancy revolves around appraisals of threat and the corresponding emotion profile in PTSD is therefore predominantly intense fear and anxiety. This paper argues that this general framework can be extended to discrepancies around other appraisal dimensions such as loss, and consequently to other emotions such as sadness. A localized taxonomy is therefore proposed comprising emotional disorders that resemble PTSD in their basic patterns of re-experiencing and avoidance symptoms--what we call their 'emotion-non-specific component'--but that differ from PTSD in terms of the core emotions involved--what we call their 'emotion-specific component'. The clinical and nosological implications of this argument are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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