Traumatic Stress and Its Specificity in Life-Threatening Disease



The article is devoted to the theoretical analysis of the stressor «life–threatening disease» features and the systematization of the actual traumatic stress symptoms caused by its influence. The relevance of studying this problem is associated with the emergence of new, but unsystematized information about the long-term psychological consequences of the impact of a serious illness on the human condition. The general line and the purpose of the study was the comparison of the intense and traumatic stress signs, and the determination of their specificity under the influence of the stressor «life–threatening disease». The methodological and theoretical principles of problem analysis are determined on the basis of the approach of N. V. Tarabrina to understanding the phenomenology of post–traumatic stress and construction a psychological model of PTS. Results: the article describes the characteristics of the life event «life–threatening disease», determines the stages of its manifestation, singles out a separate stressor associated with informing a person about a severe diagnosis. Signs of intense stress are represented by a number of categories denoting emotional states ¾ fright, fear, guilt, helplessness, etc. The symptoms of traumatic stress are analyzed, indicating a violation of the mechanism of identity integration, construction of a picture of the world, perception of a time perspective, denial of illness and restrictions. Explicit and implicit resources for coping with psychotraumatic experiences are determined. The theoretical provisions of the approach presented in the article are illustrated by the data of empirical studies conducted by domestic and foreign scientists. The conclusions summarize data on the characteristics of the stressor «life-threatening disease», the specifics of the traumatic stress caused by it, explicit and implicit coping resources.

General Information

Keywords: intense stress, traumatic stress, life–threatening illness, diagnosis, emotional experiences, explicit resources, implicit resources

Journal rubric: Theory and Methodology

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The research was carried out under the state assignment of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation No. 0138–2023–0005: Onto– and subjectogenesis of human mental development in different life situations.

Received: 07.07.2023


For citation: Kharlamenkova N. E., Nikitina D.A. Traumatic Stress and Its Specificity in Life-Threatening Disease. Konsul'tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya = Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2023. Vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 10–27. DOI: 10.17759/cpp.2023310301. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Natalia E. Kharlamenkova, Doctor of Psychology, professor, Deputy Director for Scientific Work, Head of the Laboratory of Psychology of the development of the subject in normal and post-traumatic conditions, Institute of Psychology of Russian Academy of Science, Head of the Department of Personality Psychology of the Faculty of Psychology of the State Academic University of Humanities, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Daria A. Nikitina, PhD in Psychology, Junior Researcher, Laboratory of Developmental Psychology of the subject in normal and post-traumatic conditions, Institute of Psychology Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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