Surviving but Not Thriving: A Phenomenological Inquiry into Post Traumatic Stress following Cardiac Arrest

Maja Bergman, Fordham University


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common following survival of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Although researchers have highlighted the need for treatments, little is known about the experience of PTSD in this population. This dissertation explores how survivors suffering from PTSD experienced both the event and their symptoms. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 SCA survivors who were within 5 years of their event. These interviews were then analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA). The analysis of the data yielded 6 superordinate and 20 subordinate themes. The participants’ narratives revealed the physical body as central to the psychological experience with fear of future events and ongoing reminders complicating adjustment to functional losses. Social support was impacted by trauma reactions in family members and avoidance repertoires, and existential concerns were noted as particularly important and challenging. Existing literature on trauma and adjustment was reviewed and formed the framework for understanding the results and highlight convergence and divergence with current diagnostic criteria and event specific distress and concerns. The concept of intra-personal trauma is introduced to denote specificity of a threat coming from within, rather than outside of, the body, and challenges to adaptive meaning making were noted on multiple levels. Clinical implications and recommendations for practice were detailed along with limitations and suggestions for future research.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Bergman, Maja, "Surviving but Not Thriving: A Phenomenological Inquiry into Post Traumatic Stress following Cardiac Arrest" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29259938.