Project Title

Anxiety Mediates the Relationship between Sexual Trauma Stigma and Somatic Health Complaints

Authors' Affiliations

Rebecca Altschuler, M.A, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN Gabrielle Caselman, B.S, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN Madison Hinkle, B.S, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN Julia Dodd, Ph.D, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN

Location

AUDITORIUM ROOM 137B

Start Date

4-12-2019 9:00 AM

End Date

4-12-2019 9:15 AM

Faculty Sponsor’s Department

Psychology

Name of Project's Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Julia Dodd

Type

Oral Presentation

Classification of First Author

Graduate Student-Doctoral

Project's Category

Psychology, Womens Health

Abstract Text

Existing research demonstrates that sexual trauma victims experience increased risk of adverse health outcomes including cardiovascular disorders, increased risk of chronic pain, and somatic health complaints. Similarly, sexual trauma is correlated with increased risk of adverse psychological effects including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Perceived stigmatization as a result of sexual trauma has been hypothesized to be a mechanism through which sexual trauma affects health. Sexual trauma stigma (STS) has been found to mediate the relationship between sexual trauma and psychological distress. The experience of stigmatization has also been linked to somatization and is associated with increased anxiety. Similarly, among a sample of participants with a trauma history, adversity and resultant discrimination predicted somatic health complaints with post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) partially mediating this relationship. However, the experience of STS specifically and its effect on somatic health complaints and anxiety has not yet been examined. As anxiety is associated with somatic symptoms, and is often comorbid with PTSS, it may be a mechanism through which STS effects somatic health complaints. Therefore, the current study seeks to examine the relationship between STS and somatic health complaints as well as the potential mediating effect of anxiety.

It was hypothesized that STS would predict somatic health complaints, and that anxiety would mediate this relationship. An international sample of 528 women with a sexual trauma history was recruited via social media (Reddit) and mediation results were found using the “psych” package for RMarkdown (Version 5.2.2) with bootstrapping (5000 samples). Overall, the model was significant R2 = .19, (F(2,1230) = 148.53, p < .01). Regression analyses revealed that sexual trauma stigma was a significant predictor of both anxiety (b = .21, SE = .01, p < .01) and somatic health symptoms (b = .13, SE =.01, p < .01), and that anxiety also predicted somatic symptoms (b = .39, SE = .03, p < .01). Anxiety was found to significantly mediate the relationship between sexual trauma and somatic health symptoms, b = .08, SE = .01, 95% CI [0.06, 0 .11].

Current findings confirm the relationship between sexual trauma stigma and somatic health complaints and identify anxiety as an important mediator of this relationship. Providers should be aware that experiences of sexual victimization are related to feelings of stigmatization and may increase anxiety, impacting somatic health complaints. These findings indicate future clinical implications for trauma informed care within medical settings to better serve women who may experience stigma related to sexual trauma and highlights anxiety as a key target for interventions to reduce somatic symptoms.

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Apr 12th, 9:00 AM Apr 12th, 9:15 AM

Anxiety Mediates the Relationship between Sexual Trauma Stigma and Somatic Health Complaints

AUDITORIUM ROOM 137B

Existing research demonstrates that sexual trauma victims experience increased risk of adverse health outcomes including cardiovascular disorders, increased risk of chronic pain, and somatic health complaints. Similarly, sexual trauma is correlated with increased risk of adverse psychological effects including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Perceived stigmatization as a result of sexual trauma has been hypothesized to be a mechanism through which sexual trauma affects health. Sexual trauma stigma (STS) has been found to mediate the relationship between sexual trauma and psychological distress. The experience of stigmatization has also been linked to somatization and is associated with increased anxiety. Similarly, among a sample of participants with a trauma history, adversity and resultant discrimination predicted somatic health complaints with post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) partially mediating this relationship. However, the experience of STS specifically and its effect on somatic health complaints and anxiety has not yet been examined. As anxiety is associated with somatic symptoms, and is often comorbid with PTSS, it may be a mechanism through which STS effects somatic health complaints. Therefore, the current study seeks to examine the relationship between STS and somatic health complaints as well as the potential mediating effect of anxiety.

It was hypothesized that STS would predict somatic health complaints, and that anxiety would mediate this relationship. An international sample of 528 women with a sexual trauma history was recruited via social media (Reddit) and mediation results were found using the “psych” package for RMarkdown (Version 5.2.2) with bootstrapping (5000 samples). Overall, the model was significant R2 = .19, (F(2,1230) = 148.53, p < .01). Regression analyses revealed that sexual trauma stigma was a significant predictor of both anxiety (b = .21, SE = .01, p < .01) and somatic health symptoms (b = .13, SE =.01, p < .01), and that anxiety also predicted somatic symptoms (b = .39, SE = .03, p < .01). Anxiety was found to significantly mediate the relationship between sexual trauma and somatic health symptoms, b = .08, SE = .01, 95% CI [0.06, 0 .11].

Current findings confirm the relationship between sexual trauma stigma and somatic health complaints and identify anxiety as an important mediator of this relationship. Providers should be aware that experiences of sexual victimization are related to feelings of stigmatization and may increase anxiety, impacting somatic health complaints. These findings indicate future clinical implications for trauma informed care within medical settings to better serve women who may experience stigma related to sexual trauma and highlights anxiety as a key target for interventions to reduce somatic symptoms.