Posttraumatic growth and posttraumatic stress: a discussion of the literature

Lisa Martin1, Michelle Byrnes2, Sarah McGarry3, Suzanne Rea4, Fiona Wood5

1 University of Western Australia, Burn Injury Research Unit, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia, 6009, lisa.martin3@health.wa.gov.au
2 University of Western Australia, Clinical Psychology Research Unit, Western Australian Neuroscience Research Institute, Level 4, A Block, QEII Medical Centre,  Nedlands, Western Australia, 6009
3 Fiona Stanley Hospital, MNH (B) Main Hospital, Level 4, Burns Unit, 102-118 Murdoch Drive, Murdoch, Western Australia, 6150, sarah.mcgarry@health.wa.gov.au
4 Fiona Stanley Hospital, MNH (B) Main Hospital, Level 4, Burns Unit, 102-118 Murdoch Drive, Murdoch, Western Australia, 6150, suzanne.rea@health.wa.gov.au
5 Fiona Stanley Hospital, MNH (B) Main Hospital, Level 4, Burns Unit, 102-118 Murdoch Drive, Murdoch, Western Australia, 6150, fiona.wood@health.wa.gov.au

The relationship between posttraumatic growth and posttraumatic stress has been widely explored in the non-burn literature, but little has been done in the burn literature.  It has been postulated that growth arises from stress, and that stress is a necessary precursor for growth to occur (Janoff-Bulman, 1992). Some studies have shown a curvilinear relationship between the two with most growth occurring at moderate levels of stress (Fontana and Rosenheck, 1998, Lechner et al., 2006) although that pattern has not been identified in burn injury to date (Baillie et al., 2014).

This literature review discussed how these interrelate. Cinahl Plus; Medline; Embase; PsycINFO; Proquest; Pubmed; Cochrane; Scopus were searched with the search terms “posttraumatic stress” AND “posttraumatic growth” AND “burn injury”.  Here we present the theory, the evidence and the potential implications for patients who have had a burn injury. It is important to understand the relationship between the two so that we can provide appropriate care and support at the appropriate times in the recovery phase of our patients.

Key Words

posttraumatic growth; posttraumatic stress; distress; burn injury; psychosocial recovery

References

BAILLIE, S., SELLWOOD, W. & WISELY, J. 2014. Post-traumatic growth in adults following a burn. Burns, 40, 1089-1096.
FONTANA, A. & ROSENHECK, R. 1998. Psychological benefits and liabilities of traumatic exposure in the war zone. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 11, 485-503.
JANOFF-BULMAN, R. 1992. Shattered Assumption: Towards a New Psychology of Trauma, New York, The Free Press.
LECHNER, S., CARVER, C., ANTONI, M., WEAVER, K. & PHILLIPS, K. 2006. Curvilinear associations between benefit finding and psuchosocial adjustment to breast cancer. Journal of Counselling and Clinical Psychology, 74, 828-840.

Biography

Fiona Wood has been a burns surgeon and researcher for the past 20 years and is Director of the Burns Service of Western Australia (BSWA). She is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Fiona Stanley Hospital (previously at Royal Perth Hospital) and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children. She is the current ANZBA President.

About ANZBA

ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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