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Cult Med Psychiatry. 2010 Jun;34(2):209-18. doi: 10.1007/s11013-010-9175-x.

Idioms of distress among trauma survivors: subtypes and clinical utility.


In this introduction to the Special Issue on Trauma and Idioms of Distress, we provide an overview of the concept and typology of "idioms of distress," focusing particularly on their clinical utility. This includes the role of idioms as indicators of trauma exposure, of various types of psychopathology and of levels of distress, risk and functioning. It likewise includes the fact that idioms of distress may profoundly influence the personal meaning of having a trauma-related disorder, may shape the interpersonal course of the disorder and may pattern help-seeking and self-treatment. Finally, it illustrates the fact that idioms may also help clinicians understand sufferers' views of the causes of their distress, constitute key therapeutic targets and help increase therapeutic empathy and treatment adherence. This special issue focuses on the role played by idioms of distress in the local trauma ontology, the associations between the idioms and psychiatric disorders occurring in the context of trauma and the mechanisms by which the idioms profoundly influence the personal and interpersonal course of trauma-related disorders.

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