The Etiology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder : A Test of Two Models
New York University, Ph.D., May, 2006.

This study compared the reliability and applicability of two models of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a physiological model that measured anxiety and a psychological model that measured level of attachment. Both models were applied in a comparison study of New Yorkers exposed to the attacks of September 11th 2001. There were 127 usable responses gathered from several sources, including Internet based “community list serves” related to 9/11/2001 and word of mouth distribution of measures. These instruments also measured presence of, and severity of, childhood physical and sexual abuse and how these experiences may be predictors for later development of PTSD and how they may impact attachment style in adulthood.

The findings determined that there was not a positive relationship between a history of childhood abuse and severity of post traumatic response. However, (positive) linear relationships were found between some study variables (alexithymia, anxiety, and security of attachment) and severity of PTSD. Although both models were significant predictors of PTSD neither either demonstrating superiority.

Results were discussed in light of the nature of the September 11th attacks and the significant role of attachment on development of PTSD. Suggestions for future trauma research included the importance of these psychological factors, e.g. object relations, attachment, and ego defenses and the ability of subjects to recover from subsequent trauma (resilience).

Dr. O’Brien’s doctoral dissertation The Etiology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Test of Two Models explored the origins of post traumatic stress syndrome and the resilience of New Yorkers following the September 11th 2001 attack of the World Trade Center. The dissertation was accepted by the graduate review committee without revisions by the faculty advisers at NYU.

The subjects varied from EMS and first resonders’ to average New Yorkers and their proximity to the event at the time of the incient. How many times the viewed the incident over the airways, etc.

Dr O’Brien wishes to express his gratitude to all participants of this study and to all New Yorkers, the men and women of the Emergency response teams, volunteers, the Police and Fire departments and to the Families of September 11 2001 and LDRNY.

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