We studied the relationship between type and frequency of CFT and post-traumatic stress in a sample of directly (n = 50) and indirectly exposed (n = 50) ministerial employees 4 years after the 2011 Oslo bombing. The results showed that frequency of CFT was associated with levels of post-traumatic stress, among both directly and indirectly exposed participants. In the directly exposed group, self-reported frequencies of downward counterfactuals were associated with post-traumatic stress. A similar trend was found for upward counterfactuals. In the indirectly exposed group, self-reported frequencies of both upward and downward counterfactuals were associated with higher levels of post-traumatic stress. These results point to the intriguing possibility that people may not only develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of actual experiences, but also via mental simulations of traumatic events that could have happened.
Thinking About What Might Have Happened: Counterfactual Thinking and Post-traumatic Stress in Individuals Directly and Indirectly Exposed to the 2011 Oslo Bombing
Blix, I., Kanten, A. B., Birkeland, M. S., Solberg, Ø., Nissen, A., & Heir, T. (2016). Thinking About What Might Have Happened: Counterfactual Thinking and Post-traumatic Stress in Individuals Directly and Indirectly Exposed to the 2011 Oslo Bombing. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30(6), 983-991. doi:10.1002/acp.3289
Counterfactual thinking (CFT), that is thinking about what might have happened, is linked to post-traumatic stress.
This publication is a result of Health, well-being and working environment after the 22nd of July: A study of Government Quarter and Ministry employees.