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Abuse History is related to Autonomic Regulation to Mild Exercise and Psychological Wellbeing

We investigated the potential impact of abuse history on autonomic regulation and psychological wellbeing in a sample of women who reported a history of abuse without Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To measure autonomic regulation, heart rate data was collected before and after the participant rode a stationary bike for one mile. We found that abuse history was associated with less vagal regulation of the heart (i.e., respiratory sinus arrhythmia) and an inability to rapidly re-engage vagal regulation immediately following mild exercise to support a calm physiological state. These findings are consistent with clinical impressions that abused individuals may have a lower threshold to express fight/flight behaviors in response to stress and have difficulty shifting from mobilization to calmness. We also found that abuse history was related to psychological wellbeing. Women with an abuse history reported a greater use of dysfunctional coping methods and lower self-concept. Further, analyses indicated that there was a cumulative effect, whereby women who reported more recent abuse reported using more dysfunctional coping methods, having more mood disturbance, and lower self-concept. The findings underscore the importance of evaluating both the psychological and physiological effects of trauma, even in the absence of a diagnosis of PTSD


Dale, LP., Carroll, LE., Galen, G., Hayes, JA., Webb, KW., & Porges, S. (2009). Abuse History is related to Autonomic Regulation to Mild Exercise and Psychological Wellbeing. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 34(4), 299-308. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-009-9111-4

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