Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Autobiographical Memories in Everyday Life.
Schönfeld S., Ehlers A.
Evidence from self-reports and laboratory studies suggests that recall of nontrauma autobiographical memories may be disturbed in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but investigations in everyday life are sparse. This study investigated unintentional nontrauma and trauma memories in trauma survivors with and without PTSD (N = 52), who kept an autobiographical memory diary for a week. We investigated whether unintentional nontrauma memories show an overgeneral memory bias and further memory abnormalities in people with PTSD, and whether unintentional trauma memories show distinct features. Compared to the no-PTSD group, the PTSD group recorded fewer nontrauma memories, which were more overgeneral, more often from before the trauma or related to the trauma, were perceived as distant, and led to greater dwelling. Trauma memories were more vivid, recurrent, and present and led to greater suppression and dwelling. Within the PTSD group, the same features distinguished trauma and nontrauma memories. Results are discussed regarding theories of autobiographical memory and PTSD.