The Effects of Trauma on Personality

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion


PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is defined as a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event. Whether it be something that happened personally, or something witnessed, it is very common that almost everyone in their life will go through some sort of trauma in their lifetime. Symptoms can include anything from nightmares to anxiety. Over a long period of time, this can cause an individual’s personality to alter.


Participants in this study will be found through different psychologists and hospitals. Since this study is strictly confidential, no names or personal information will be given. The Stigma Conscious Scale is a questionnaire that will be used in this experiment. The SCS helps researchers to know what kind of trauma the patient has and how severe it is, by asking a series of questions and giving you options from “fully applies” to “does not apply. ” The members of this study will be interviewed by a mental health professional and asked to fill out this questionnaire. The questions in this scale can be altered depending on the experiment, an example of a question for this study would be “I do not talk about myself much because I do not want to burden others with my disorder” and the participant would then select from the choices stating whether they agree with the statement or not. Twenty participants from ages 19-29 will be chosen, and another twenty from ages 30-45. Ten from each group will be male and 10 will be female, so half of the study consists of data from men and half the data from women. The goal of having this questionnaire filled out is to determine the strength of the effect on the individual.

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In psychology, when an individual “experiences” something, it basically means they went through a series of felt events. This experience can knowingly or unconsciously create a disturbance in our minds. If a person has witnessed something or been through a traumatic experience, they may not realize that this has caused their behaviors to change. In order to more clearly understand what has caused these behaviors in an individual, they will go through a process called focusing, which is composed of 4 basic stages. The first stage is known as “direct reference. ” In this stage, the individual will discuss and describe a troublesome situation or specific trait they have. They may call themselves names or say that “they knew better than to act this way. ” They usually will disapprove of their behaviors, or they may even defend it to a real or imaginary person that would say their actions make no sense. If they continue to discuss their behaviors, they may be able to start making justifications for it such as, “Well I acted this way because it reminded me of this situation. ” If the experience is something that is anxiety-provoking, it surprisingly causes the discomfort levels to decrease whilst discussing it. Although it would seem that discussing it would bring back more anxiety, this is not the case.

The second stage is called “unfolding. ” This is when psychologists try to get the individual to come to the realization that they may have a disorder or a kind of behavioral change due to a certain experience. The psychologist may provide symbols (words, verbal noises, an outside individuals behavior, external occurrences, etc. ) that could cause the person to think that they “have it” without necessarily knowing what it is they “have. ”

“Global Application” is the third stage. Here, the individual is given different situations or memories that may be very different from their own experience, but should be able to prove that the feelings given off should be related to what the psychologist may think the problem could be. The patient may bring up unrelated topics explaining when they had these same feelings or thoughts as they do in the described situation.

The final step of focusing is referred to as the “reverent movement”. This is basically just the realization of where the source of the problem came from. The individual has learned that something more than thoughts and spoken words has occurred and that it is deeper than that. “If you only go so far into something, it’s like going into a hurricane and getting terribly blown around. You have to go into it and then keep going further and further in till you get to the eye of the hurricane. There it's quiet and you can see where you are. ” In an experiment done recently, a group of participants consisting of previous victims of abuse or torture, Arab American immigrants, or Iraqi refugees were gathered together to be individually interviewed. They were given a list of 13 symptoms and were asked to identify to which the degree they experienced the symptom. (0) being have not experienced/ does not apply, (1) not sure, (2) somewhat present, (3) very present, (4) extremely present.

After analyzing the data, the psychologists learned that there were 4 main factors that were related to most of the participants. The first factor consists of memory deficit and avoiding people. The second factor was suicidal thoughts or attempts, and self-harm. The third factor included people hearing voices or other paranoid ideas. The fourth factor was relating to depression and anxiety.


The main goal of this study was to learn how trauma affects our behavior and causes our personality to change. After doing research and looking at different experiments and journal articles, my hypothesis was proven to be true. As shown in the experiment above, all participants had either been abused, tortured, or were immigrants or refugees. All of these factors create thoughts and feelings in our heads relating to suicide or hallucinations. The biggest setback of my own personal study was not being able to go out and conduct an experiment of my own. I also would have liked to be able to talk to some of the psychologists that conducted these experiments and get to ask them questions and get a better explanation on the topic itself. I think the only problem with the studies I looked at was that there was little to no talk of how to treat a patient in these situations.

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