OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Examining the Role of Existential Anxiety and Posttraumatic Growth within Sexual Assault Survivors


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) are common outcomes after exposure to a traumatic event. Existential anxiety (EA) involves apprehension regarding purpose of life and death and may be associated with posttraumatic experiences. Although existential anxiety has been studied in relation to PTSD, it has yet to be looked at in regards to PTG. Prior research suggests that existential anxiety is differentially associated with psychological symptoms (Scott & Weems, 2012). The purpose of the current study is to examine the role of EA and PTG in sexual assault survivors. Participants (n = 95) were recruited from undergraduate psychology courses for the present study. Participants were prescreened to determine sexual trauma history using an online mass testing procedure. Eligible participants were invited to participate in the present study where they were asked to complete the Existential Anxiety Questionnaire (EAQ; Weems et al., 2004), the PTSD Checklist for DSM5 (PCL-5; Weathers et al., 2013), and the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PGI; Tedeschi & Calhaun, 1996). Analyses revealed a positive correlation between EA and PTSD symptoms, r = .50, p < 0.01. Additionally, a positive correlation was found between PTG and PTSD symptoms, r = .22, p < 0.05. After looking at specific factors of PTG, it was found that Spiritual Change significantly predicted existential anxiety (β =.44, p < .05). Perhaps survivors experiencing a change in spirituality may experience existential anxiety, which may lead to growth after trauma.

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