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Perceived Social Support and it's role in PTSD

Natalie Simon talks about the Team’s recent publication, Associations between perceived social support, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (CPTSD): implications for treatment

Social support is an important risk factor in the development and maintenance of PTSD, and there are several explanations for why and how social support and PTSD might be linked. One suggestion is that an individual’s lack of social support might, in some way, result in increased psychological distress following a traumatic experience, another suggestion is that an increase in an individual’s psychological distress following a trauma might contribute to a decline in social support resource. Research has also considered the impact of ‘attachment theory’ in the relationship.

Given our understanding of the importance of social support and PTSD, we wanted to add to the knowledge base. And with the recent formal recognition of complex-PTSD, in the 11thedition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), we wanted to explore, for the first time, the association between perceived social support and CPTSD.

We already knew that treatments that help develop social support are beneficial to those with more complex presentations of PTSD, and we hypothesised there would be a role for perceived social support in the presentation of certain ‘complex’ symptom clusters of PTSD and CPTSD. We tested this using data collected for NCMH’s PTSD Registry, and found that individuals with a presentation of CPTSD tended to exhibit lower levels of perceived social support, and we found a unique association between lower perceived social support and the likelihood of presenting with CPTSD.

We hope our research will encourage researchers and clinicians alike to consider treatment interventions that might improve perceived social support, amongst other things, for individuals with CPTSD.

If you have any questions about this research, please contact Natalie by email using