No Distance is Too Far Between Friends: Associations of Comfortable Interpersonal Distance with PTSD and Anxiety Symptoms in Israeli Firefighters

Published: 24 November 2020| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/vk2mpn4myx.2
Shilat Haim-Nachum, M. Roxanne Sopp, Tanja Michael, Simone Shamay-Tsoory, Einat Levy-Gigi


The study investigated Interpersonal distance regulation (IDR) and attentional processing in a sample of Israeli firefighters with multiple duty-related trauma exposure. Participants completed an experimental task that measures comfortable interpersonal distance as well as measures of PTSD and anxiety. During the task, event-related potentials were recorded to assess attentional processing as reflected in the P1 and N1 components. We found that participants who did not choose a closer distance towards friends than strangers experienced greater anxiety. Moreover, participants who showed attentional avoidance towards strangers reported more PTSD symptoms. By contrast, participants who showed hypervigilant attention towards strangers reported greater anxiety. Our results demonstrate an association between IDR, PTSD, and anxiety after trauma. Future studies should re-investigate these associations in larger samples and explore potential implications for prevention and treatment.



Anxiety, Trauma, Electroencephalography, Interpersonal Process, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder