PTSD: An Emotional Disconnect

PsychCentral has reported that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) impairs an individual’s ability to detect facial expressions.  At least that is what a new European study is suggesting.

Studies such as these are very significant because facial expressions convey lots of information to a person’s audience about what they are truly feeling and thinking.  A person’s social interactions will suffer greatly without the ability to interpret these (emotional) cues.

Researchers now believe that PTSD changes the way the brain processes emotions and emotional cues.  You might be asking, what is so new about this particular study? PTSD has already been linked to difficulties in experiencing, identifying, and describing emotions.

This new study, reported in the journal Cortex, shows the impairment in the processing of specific emotions.  As many of you know science has proven that there are seven universal facial expressions of emotion that cross cultures. This means that regardless of ethnicity most people should be able to easily recognize the seven universal facial expressions of emotion:  anger, fear, surprise, happiness, sadness, disgust and contempt.

Dr. Ervin Poljac, from the University of Sarajevo, and Dr. Barbara Montagne, from the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre along with Prof. Edward de Haan,  from the University of Amsterdam, examined emotional processing in a group of war veterans.  They found that participants with PTSD, in comparison with healthy subjects, were less likely to distinguish emotions especially fear and sadness.  They hope that this type of research will improve therapeutic interventions for the disorder.

What do you think of these new findings?  What are your thoughts on the seven universal facial expressions of emotion?

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