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Metacognitive Beliefs in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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    Metacognitive Beliefs in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

    Metacognition is broadly defined as beliefs about one’s own cognition, and it is involved in the monitoring, control and appraisal (i.e., the interpretation) of one’s own thoughts. Metacognition serves as an internal guide that allows people to recognise their own thoughts, helping to allow them to take action. Everyday examples of metacognition include awareness that you have forgotten the name of the person you have just met, or realising that you need to refocus your attention because your mind has been wandering as you have been reading this paragraph. Metacognition plays a role in all aspects of our lives; therefore, perhaps unsurprisingly, it has been implicated in the development of psychological disorders. Metacognition can either be helpful or a hindrance when people try to recover after suffering a traumatic event. For instance, believing that worrying is helpful (Worrying helps me cope . . . I must worry in order to be prepared) or believing that holding negative beliefs about thoughts is dangerous (My worrying is dangerous for me . . . When I start worrying I cannot stop) are examples of maladaptive metacognition that can negatively impact a person’s appraisal style and ability to cope. Metamemory is a type of metacognition that refers to the processes whereby people are able to examine the content of their memories, both prospectively and retrospectively, and make judgements about them. Thus, metamemory does not refer to memory itself, but rather it is the judgements and assessments that we make about our own memories. For instance, although evidence for the experience of disorganised memory in PTSD is inconsistent (due in part to difficulties in operationally defining and measuring these types of memories), simply believing or perceiving one’s memory to be disorganised can be problematic.

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