Persistence of Traumatic Symptoms After Seven Years: Evidence from Young Individuals Exposed to the L’Aquila Earthquake

Laura Piccardi, Massimiliano Palmiero, Raffaella Nori, Francesca Baralla, Pierluigi Cordellieri, Simonetta D’Amico, Anna Maria Giannini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In this article, we investigated the presence of trauma-induced sequelae in a sample of 41 young individuals exposed to the L’Aquila earthquake who did not seek mental help in the aftermath of the disaster or in the ensuing months. We compared this group with 43 individuals, matched for age and education, who had not experienced an earthquake but had moved to and lived in L’Aquila after the earthquake and thus experienced the challenges of living in an earthquake-struck city. This study aimed to show that earthquake-exposed individuals scored significantly higher than nonexposed persons on certain scales of the Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI) seven years after the event. Our results indicated that exposed individuals exhibited higher scores on the dissociation, intrusive experience, and defensive avoidance scales. Furthermore, a correlational analysis between specific conditions detected by the Earthquake Checklist L’Aquila (ECLA) and the TSI identified the influences of specific conditions, such as being trapped or injured under rubble during the earthquake, experiencing a persistent fear of aftershocks or a life-threatening feeling, and witnessing the death of a loved one. All of these experiences resulted in the persistence of trauma-related symptoms. Dissociative experiences during the trauma, cognitive and behavioral avoidance and reexperiencing were associated with negative effects and may hinder the natural process of recovery in trauma-exposed individuals. Knowledge of mid- and long-term psychological difficulties following a traumatic event may be useful for promoting interventions in mental health across exposed populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-500
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Loss and Trauma
Volume22
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 18 2017

Keywords

  • Dissociation
  • earthquake
  • natural disaster
  • PTSD
  • trauma-induced sequelae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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