Coping with Trauma Communally Reduces PTSD Risk

Results suggest that Black and Latina women who cope with trauma by engaging with their community experience less severe PTSD symptoms.

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The results of a recent study published in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology suggest that the communal mastery of Black and Latina women may protect against the development of PTSD symptoms. By communal mastery, the researchers refer to a community-oriented way of coping where people can manage life difficulties through attachments with family, friends, neighbors, and significant others.

“How women cope with trauma exposure in an important factor affecting psychopathology risk and recovery. However, research has historically focused on individualistic coping behaviors while more communal or collectivist coping styles have seldom been explored,” the authors, led by psychologist Michelle Miller, write.
“Ethnic and racial minority woman may benefit from greater efficacy-through-social attachments, and exploring this avenue of coping offers a dimensionality to understanding coping processes of populations often underrepresented in research.”
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Women in communities with low resources are more likely to experience trauma or witnessed traumatic events and are at higher risk of developing PTSD than the general population. Additionally, the discriminatory stress lived by Black and Latina women due to racism – from systemic forms to microaggressions – increases the risk of developing PTSD in this population.

People of color have developed ways of coping with race-based trauma. Most research has focused on individualistic coping processes or strategies, such as problem-focused coping (actively trying to solve a problem to reduce stress or anxiety), emotion-focused coping (finding ways of reducing the emotional distress that comes from stressors or events), and passive coping (e.g., avoidance, denial, substance use), but few have studied communal or collective forms of coping. Social support, whether instrumental (assisting with tasks or material support) or emotional (receiving empathy and care from others) from one’s community, positively influences recovery from trauma. But other social forms of coping have not been studied.

There are cultural and sub-cultural differences in individualistic and collective coping processes, and thus learning more about communal mastery might be beneficial for understanding and identifying coping strategies used by women of color that can reduce trauma symptoms.

The purpose of the study was to understand the relationship between mental health, communal mastery, and other individualistic forms of coping in a sample of Black and Latina women who live in under-resourced urban communities. The researchers screened 153 Black and Latina women at an outpatient clinic that serves this population. 131 participants met the criteria for the study and were recruited. Most participants (96.2%) had experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, but only some met the criteria for depression (19.1%) and PTSD (12.2%) diagnosis. In addition, they took questionaries about their trauma history and exposure, their communal mastery, individualistic forms of coping, social support, and symptoms of PTSD and depression.

The study results showed a significant negative association between communal mastery and symptoms of PTSD and depression. This means that those who had more communal mastery had fewer symptoms and/or less severe symptoms.

Communal mastery was also associated with social support and adaptive forms of coping. Social support was also found to be negatively associated with both PTSD and depressive symptoms. After accounting for other factors, communal mastery was still negatively associated with PTSD symptoms but did not show a significant relationship with depression.

This study adds to the growing literature that seeks to expand collectivist approaches to psychology and healing. However, this challenges some psychotherapy approaches and other psychological interventions that focus on individual forms of coping and alleviating distress.

Although further research is necessary, the authors suggest that mental health professionals and others who seek to reduce PTSD symptoms and the effects of trauma should encourage communal mastery in people, patients, and community members.

Although coping with trauma is important, it is also necessary to address the social factors that lead to a traumatic experience to prevent PTSD and complex trauma, increase well-being and quality of life, and promote social justice.

 

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Miller, M. L., Stevens, N. R., Lowell, G. S., & Hobfoll, S. E. (2021). Communal mastery and associations with depressive and PTSD symptomatology among urban trauma-exposed women. Cultural diversity and ethnic minority psychology. (Link)

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José G. Luiggi-Hernández
MIA Research News Team: José G. Luiggi-Hernández is a Clinical Psychology PhD student at Duquesne University with a background in public health. His current research and clinical interests involve understanding the lived experience of colonization using phenomenological, psychoanalytic, and decolonial frameworks. He has previously worked on research related to LGBTQ issues, health behaviors, mindfulness for chronic pain, CBT for diabetes and depression, among other projects.

3 COMMENTS

  1. “By communal mastery, the researchers refer to a community-oriented way of coping where people can manage life difficulties through attachments with family, friends, neighbors, and significant others.”

    That’s what we’ve found: attachment theory has given us the tools to go thru the worst of the worst, holding us together, and facilitating the healing process.
    Sam

  2. “Although coping with trauma is important, it is also necessary to address the social factors that lead to a traumatic experience to prevent PTSD and complex trauma, increase well-being and quality of life, and promote social justice.”

    The shit that happens to people is so complex and reactions are usually simply the muck that got heaped on top of muck. That muck from others in a power position, does not result in some “pathology” in the victim, no matter the “symptoms”.

    Instead of “symptoms” we can use the word “reaction”. A perfectly normal reaction if you shake out of fear.
    The pathology is within the people who exert their power to cause more shaking.

  3. “Ethnic and racial minority woman may benefit from greater efficacy-through-social attachments,…”

    I’m quite certain this is true for white women, too. Which is why I ignored my insane – what I eventually learned was a child abuse covering up – white female psychologist’s bad advice to “quit all your activities, and concentrate on the meds.”

    Covering up child abuse and rape is a systemic problem for the psychological and psychiatric professions, I later learned. And I was proactively attacked by “mental health” workers, because I’m the mother of a child abuse survivor. The medical evidence of the abuse of my child was eventually handed over.

    https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/01/23/18820633.php?fbclid=IwAR2-cgZPcEvbz7yFqMuUwneIuaqGleGiOzackY4N2sPeVXolwmEga5iKxdo
    https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/

    And an ELCA synod offices insider even wrote a book, because he was seemingly almost as appalled as I, that the paternalistic ELCA had “partnered with” the DSM “bible” worshippers. And the DSM “bible” worshippers were functioning as the child abuse covering up arm of the ELCA religion, which has turned ELCA bishops into systemic child abuse and rape cover uppers, too.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=xI01AlxH1uAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    We do need to challenge “some psychotherapy approaches and other psychological interventions that focus on individual forms of coping and alleviating distress,” not to mention the psychiatric interventions “that focus on individual forms of coping and alleviating distress.”

    Especially given the reality that the ADHD drugs and antidepressants can create the “bipolar” symptoms. The antipsychotics / neuroleptics and antidepressants can create the positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via anticholinergic toxidrome. And the neuroleptics can also create the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome.

    https://www.alternet.org/2010/04/are_prozac_and_other_psychiatric_drugs_causing_the_astonishing_ rise_of_mental_illness_in_america/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxidrome
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroleptic-induced_deficit_syndrome

    I’m not quite certain what the definition of “communal mastery” is, but would imagine it basically means getting along well with most others within your community? Which I did, so my psychiatrist eventually, according to his medical records, concluded I’d been misdiagnosed by my non-medically trained psychologist, which is now medically provable, so he weaned me off his drugs.

    “Although coping with trauma is important, it is also necessary to address the social factors that lead to a traumatic experience to prevent PTSD and complex trauma, increase well-being and quality of life, and promote social justice.”

    And given the fact that “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).”

    We do also need psychologists and psychiatrists to stop misdiagnosing child abuse or concerns of child abuse as ALL the “invalid” DSM disorders.

    http://psychrights.org/2013/130429NIMHTransformingDiagnosis.htm

    Our society should also start to arrest the child molesters, “to address the social factors that lead to a traumatic experience.” And if you think this is not an enormous societal problem, it is.

    https://medicalkidnap.com/2018/08/05/america-1-in-child-sex-trafficking-and-pedophilia-cps-and-foster-care-are-the-pipelines/
    https://www.amazon.com/Pedophilia-Empire-Chapter-Introduction-Disorder-ebook/dp/B0773QHGPT

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