The effects of childhood trauma on symptomatology: an examination of the role of cortisol and emotion regulation




Wilborn, Kristin

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The allostatic load model of mood and anxiety disorders posits that biological stress reactivity, leading to impaired emotion regulation and greater risk for mood and anxiety symptomatology, is triggered following repeated exposure to stressful life events. Early exposure to stressors is an important predictor of risk for the onset of adult symptomatology. Individuals exposed to stress early in development are also at an increased risk for emotional dysregulation and damage to the HPA-axis. To date, there are no known studies examining the mediating effects of emotion dysregulation and the HPA-axis on the subsequent development of depression and PTSD in female victims of intimate-partner violence. Therefore, these effects were examined in a sample of females living in a residence for intimate-partner violence survivors and females representative of a typical population. Additionally, a mindfulness based stress reduction intervention was conducted to improve symptomatology, emotion regulation, and HPA-axis dynamics. Results indicate that an alternative model in which the relationship between emotion regulation and CAR is mediated by depression suggested a better fit. There were no mediating effects of emotion regulation. While the results in this study should be cautiously interpreted because of a small sample size, there are several strengths to this study as well. That this study utilized a community sample suggests a high external validity. Additionally, based on the participant comments and success in past studies, it is likely that the meditation intervention will be successful in future studies utilizing a residential population similar to the one utilized in this study.


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Childhood trauma, Cortisol, Depression, Emotion dysregulation, Emotion regulation, PTSD