A multi-method assessment of interoception among sexual trauma survivors.
It is well established that many female sexual trauma survivors experience dissociation, particularly disconnection from the body, in the aftermath of sexual trauma. This study aims to address the open question of how sexual trauma is associated with awareness of inner body sensations (i.e., interoception). Given the important role that interoception has in emotion regulation, a process with which survivors often struggle, it is important to understand the associations between interoception and PTSD symptoms among survivors. Through multi-methods, we assessed associations between interoception, dissociation, and PTSD symptoms among 200 female sexual trauma survivors. We assessed two components of interoception: interoceptive accuracy (IAc: accurately perceiving internal body sensations; via heartbeat perception task) and interoceptive sensibility (IS: self-report perception of sensitivity to interoceptive sensations). We hypothesized that IAc and IS would be positively correlated with PTSD, with interactions between IAc/dissociation and IS/dissociation qualifying those main effects, weakening them for survivors with higher dissociation. Results showed an opposite pattern than was predicted: although IAc did explain significant PTSD variance, as IAc increased, PTSD decreased. Although IAc did explain significant variance in PTSD symptoms, interestingly, IS did not. Consistent with extant literature, dissociation predicted significant variance in PTSD. These correlational results suggest that the ability to more accurately perceive inner body sensations is related to lower PTSD symptoms. Findings provide a foundation for future research that can assess if interventions (such as yoga or exercise) that target increasing interoceptive accuracy lead to decreases in PTSD symptoms. We discuss further clinical implications, limitations and future directions.
Reinhardt, KM; Zerubavel, N; Young, AS; Gallo, M; Ramakrishnan, N; Henry, A; Zucker, NL
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