Psychology and cognitive processing in post-traumatic disorders


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves a number of cognitive factors in its aetiology and, therefore, in the criteria required for diagnosis. Whilst psychobiological theories and treatments are considered very briefly, the focus of this contribution is the role of cognitive factors in the onset, maintenance and treatment of PTSD. This contribution, therefore, reviews the role of cognitive factors in the genesis and development of PTSD before examining early cognitive theories, through the work of Mowrer on two-factor theory to the work of Foa and Kozak on emotional processing. The contribution then considers the current state of cognitive theorizing about PTSD, with particular reference to the theories of Brewin, Clark and Ehlers. The particular role of memory, the importance of previously held and current beliefs and the crucial part played by cognitive strategies are all considered and seen to be most important if the phenomenon of PTSD is to be fully understood. The two primary cognitively based treatments for PTSD – cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – are then introduced and considered in turn, particularly from the point of examining how each treatment approach targets cognitive factors involved in the maintenance of post-traumatic symptomatology and distress.






Jamie Hacker Hughes

Original Work Citation

Hughes, J. H. (2006, July). Psychology and cognitive processing in post-traumatic disorders. Psychiatry, 5(7), 228-230. doi:10.1053/j.mppsy.2006.04.002



“Psychology and cognitive processing in post-traumatic disorders,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 22, 2020,

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