Linguistic characteristics in a non-trauma-related narrative task are associated with PTSD diagnosis and symptom severity

Santiago Papini, Patricia Yoon, Mikael Rubin, Teresa Lopez-Castro, Denise A. Hien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Linguistic characteristics of trauma narratives have been linked to the development and severity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it remains unclear if linguistic markers of PTSD exist beyond the scope of trauma narratives. This study used ambiguous visual prompts to elicit spontaneous narratives from trauma-exposed individuals with (n = 23) and without PTSD (n = 30). Individuals with PTSD used more singular pronouns and death-related words, and fewer plural pronouns. Within the PTSD group, increased severity of reexperiencing symptoms was associated with greater use of singular pronouns and lower use of cognitive words; increased severity of avoidance symptoms was associated with lower use of death words; and increased severity of hyperarousal symptoms was associated with less frequent use of anxiety words. Together, these linguistic variables accounted for 53% of the variance in total PTSD symptom severity. These findings are consistent with previous research suggesting that language use is a strong predictor of PTSD psychopathology, and extend the evidence to include the linguistic characteristics of non-trauma-related narratives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-302
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

Keywords

  • PTSD
  • linguistic predictors
  • narrative
  • trauma

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