The experience of mental death: The core feature of complex posttraumatic stress disorder.
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Exposure to extreme interpersonal stress, exemplified by the experience of torture, represents a threat to the psychological integrity of the victim. The experience is likely to result in mental death, in the loss of the victim's pretrauma identity. Mental death is characterized by loss of core beliefs and values, distrust, and alienation from others, shame and guilt, and a sense of being permanently damaged. Mental death is a primary feature of a distinct posttrauma syndrome, complex posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is refractory to standard exposure therapies. We identify cognitive mechanisms that mediate the symptoms of complex PTSD, and suggest how current treatments need to be modified to obtain enhanced treatment outcomes.
Clinical Psychology Review
© 2004 Elsevier. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.