News and events Tilburg University

Long-term PTSD-symptoms undermine coping self-efficacy

Published: 02nd November 2017 Last updated: 01st May 2019

PRESS RELEASE 2 November 2017 - The higher the coping self-efficacy, the lower the posttraumatic distress (PTSD) in the first months after experiencing a shocking event. In the long-term, however, PTSD-symptoms start to undermine victims’ coping self-efficacy. This is one of the findings of new research by Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

If severe PTSD-symptoms persevere treatment is needed, as treatment has a positive effect on coping self-efficacy.

The study among the Dutch population about coping self-efficacy after experiencing traumatic events used a large aselect sample of 8,000 respondents. Victims who had experienced a traumatic event 1 to 2 years ago filled out 3 questionnaires focused on posttraumatic stress symptoms and coping self-efficacy.


The results show that in the long-term, coping self-efficacy and PTSD symptoms both influence each other, unlike in the first months after the events. In that first phase, coping self-efficacy helps to protect against PTSD-symptoms, while PTSD-symptoms do not yet affect coping self-efficacy. 1-2 years post-event, PTSD symptoms do adversely affect coping self-efficacy however. This pattern is similar to that found in an earlier study focused on social support. In that study social support initially helped to protect against PTSD-symptoms, yet over time PTSD-symptoms started to erode social support.

Adequate treatment

The results are important for care provided to victims. They show that coping self-efficacy of victims is negatively affected by persistent PTSD-symptoms which creates a downward spiral with increasing symptoms and decreasing coping self-efficacy. This downward spiral can be broken by adequate treatment.

The study has just been published in the renowned international scientific journal Social Science & Medicine (1) and was conducted by Dr. Mark Bosmans (ReflecT) and Prof. Peter van der Velden (INTERVICT) of Tilburg University. The study has been made possible by Fonds Slachtofferhulp.


(1) Bosmans M.W.G., van der Velden P.G. (2017). Cross-lagged associations between posttraumatic stress symptoms and coping self-efficacy in long-term recovery: A four-wave comparative study. Social Science & Medicine, 193, 33-40.


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