Adverse life events such as life-threatening accidents, domestic and/or sexual violence, organic diseases (i.e., cancer), or COVID-19 can have a strong traumatic impact – generating reactions as intrusive thoughts, hyperarousal, and avoidance. Indeed, the traumatic impact of COVID-19 seems to lead individuals to experience anxiety and depression. However, the Anxiety-Buffer Hypothesis suggests that self-esteem could be considered a shield (buffer) against traumatic experiences and their outcomes (i.e., anxiety and depression). The present study has two objectives. First, to develop a measure of the impact of the traumatic event considering the aforementioned reactions. Second, to test the process – triggered by COVID19-related traumatic experience – in which self-esteem buffers the path that leads to anxiety and depression.
In Study 1 (N = 353), the Post-Traumatic Symptom Questionnaire (PTSQ) was developed and a deep investigation of its psychometric properties was conducted. In Study 2 (N = 445), a structural equation model with latent variables was performed to assess the buffering effect of self-esteem.
The PTSQ has excellent fit indices and psychometric properties. According to the ABH, results confirm the buffering effect of self-esteem in the relationships between traumatic symptoms and both anxiety and depression.
On the one hand, the PTSQ is a solid and reliable instrument. On the other hand, that self-esteem is a protective factor against anxiety and depression related to a traumatic experience – such as COVID-19. Targeted psychological interventions should be implemented to minimize the psychological burden of the illness while promoting adaptation and positive aspects of oneself.