Posttraumatic growth and resilience: Similarities and differences

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

Resilience and posttraumatic growth are often confused in the literature. Definitions of resilience vary and there is a lack of consensus in the literature (Southwick et al., 2011).  However, it is helpful to separate the two constructs because the differences between them can help us to understand the different effects of trauma and how we can best help our patients.  We propose that the following distinctions should be made; firstly, posttraumatic growth (PTG) is positive change which occurs beyond the pre-trauma condition (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 1995, O’Leary and Ickovics, 1995) and secondly, resilience is an attribute which allows a person to remain relatively unchanged by the trauma and to maintain relatively stable, healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning throughout the traumatic episode (Bonanno, 2004).

A literature review of resilience and posttraumatic growth was completed to explore these concepts in the area of burn injury and to compare the literature to that found in general trauma.  Cinahl Plus; Medline; Embase; PsycINFO; Proquest; Pubmed; Cochrane; Scopus were searched with the search terms “burn injury” AND “posttraumatic growth; psychological growth; adversarial growth; positive change; adaptation; adjustment; thriving; benefit finding; resilience”.  Here we present the similarities and differences between resilience and growth, including process and outcome of each, and the impacts of these on the coping style of the patient.  It is important that we understand recovery types and the associated factors that can improve recovery so we can tailor post-burn support to individual patient needs.

Key Words

posttraumatic growth; resilience; burn injury; psychosocial recovery

References

BONANNO 2004. Loss, trauma and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely adversive events. American Psychologist, 59, 20-28.
O’LEARY, V. & ICKOVICS, J. 1995. Resilience and thriving in response to challenge: an opportunity for a paradigm shift in women’s health. Women’s Health, 1, 121-142.
SOUTHWICK, S., LITZ, B., CHARNEY, D. & FRIEDMAN, M. 2011. Preface: Resilience and Mental Health: Challenges Across the Lifespan. In: SOUTHWICK, S., LITZ, B., CHARNEY, D. & FRIEDMAN, M. (eds.) Resilience and Mental Health: Challenges Across the Lifespan. New York: Cambridge University Press.
TEDESCHI, R. & CALHOUN, L. 1995. Trauma and transformation: Growing in the aftermath of suffering, Thousand Oaks, California, USA, Sage Publications Inc.

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 also 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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