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This paper advances the proposition that in carrying out the decision to undergo elective abortion, a woman experiences a potentially traumatizing psychological event. Vignettes from clinical practice illumine the symptoms and development of post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of abortion. A model of psychic trauma is presented to account for the nature of abortion as a traumatic Stressor. It is based on psychoanalytic considerations, with an emphasis on the role of aggressive energy in the reconfiguring of psychic activities following trauma. The concept of an intrapsychic conflict between the basic drives leads to an understanding of the post-traumatic state, and its persistence.


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Robert C. Erikson, Ph.D.

Robert Erikson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Brecksville, Ohio, where he has recently completed four years as Director of the Center for Stress Recovery, the posttraumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) treatment program at the Cleveland VA Medical Center. He is in private practice and is active in professional and community affairs. He received his doctorate from the University of Arizona in 1976, and has 15 years of clinical experience in the assessment and treatment of PTSD with a variety of populations, including post-abortion women. Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to: Robert C. Erikson, Ph.D., 8748 Brecksville Road, #222, Brecksville OH 44141.

JOURNAL OF PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH publishes research and clinical articles from the cutting edge of the science of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. The journal, published quarterly since 1986, is dedicated to the in-depth exploration human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and newborn child.

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