Award Date

May 2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

First Committee Member

Laurel Pritchard

Second Committee Member

Murray Millar

Third Committee Member

Jefferson Kinney

Fourth Committee Member

Peter Gray

Number of Pages

70

Abstract

Distinct gender differences exist in the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder in the United States population. Currently, the direct biological mechanisms involved in the development of PTSD have not been elucidated. However, many studies indicate a dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) as a contributing factor in the development of PTSD. This study investigated performance and endocrine correlates of PTSD in 38 females without PTSD, 14 females with PTSD, 32 males without PTSD and 5 males with PTSD. We examined the differences between basal cortisol concentrations, as well as cortisol reactivity to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). In addition, participant performance was measured during the TSST. We administered the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale and the Abbreviated Math Anxiety Scale to investigate the relationship between math and performance anxiety and performance. We did not find significant differences in cortisol concentrations between groups. We found a significant effect of time when investigating subjective stress levels. We also found a significant effect of sex and PTSD status on the AMAS and an effect of PTSD on the LSAS. Our data suggest that the anxiety experienced in individuals with PTSD generalizes across domains but does affect performance. It may be that individuals without PTSD symptoms provide anxiety ratings that better predict their performance on the TSST tasks, either because their pre-existing levels of anxiety in these domains directly affect their performance or because they more accurately assess their performance and rate their anxiety in these domains accordingly.

Disciplines

Psychology

Language

English


Included in

Psychology Commons

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