A longitudinal study of post-traumatic growth and psychological distress in colorectal cancer survivors
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The stability of post-traumatic growth over time and the relationship between post-traumatic growth and traditional distress outcomes remains unclear. We tracked post-traumatic growth in a population-based sample of colorectal cancer patients from soon after diagnosis to five years subsequently to assess the heterogeneity of a post-traumatic growth response to cancer over time and describe the simultaneous and longitudinal relationships between post-traumatic growth and psychological distress. 1966 colorectal patients who were five months post diagnosis were assessed six times over a five year period. There was considerable heterogeneity associated with both psychological distress and benefit finding scores over time. However, both for benefit finding and psychological distress, the variation in individual scores suggested an underlying positive linear trend and both lagged and lagged change components. Specifically, benefit finding and psychological distress are mutual leading indicators of each other. First, benefit finding served as a leading indicator of distress, in that increases in reported benefit finding from year to year predicted higher future increases in psychological distress. As well, in an inverse relationship, psychological distress served as a leading indicator of benefit finding, such that increases in reported distress from year to year predicted lower future increases in benefit finding. Post-traumatic growth may reflect patients coping efforts to enhance perceptions of wellbeing in response to escalating cancer–related threats, acting as harbinger of increasing trajectories of psychological distress. This explanation is consistent with a cognitive dissonance response in which threats to the integrity of the self then lead to a tendency to accentuate positive aspects of the self.
© 2015 Occhipinti et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Psychology not elsewhere classified