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Funded PhD Opportunity

Modelling the stress related continuum based on a nationally representative UK survey.

Subject: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience


For the upcoming 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the ICD-11 Working Group for Disorders Specifically Associated with Stress disaggregated trauma-related symptoms into those that were deemed to be directly related to the traumatic event, and those that were deemed to reflect more pervasive psychological disturbances that can arise following traumatic exposure, but are not necessarily directly linked to the traumatic event itself (Maercker et al., 2013). This separation of symptoms led to the formulation of two distinct, but related, trauma-based disorders: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD (CPTSD). The diagnosis of CPTSD includes the core PTSD symptoms, and additional symptom clusters that reflect disturbances in self-organization (DSO). The DSO symptom clusters include (1) affective dysregulation, both hyperactivation and hypoactivation of emotional responses, (2) a persistent negative self-concept, and (3) disturbances in relationships. It is proposed that PTSD and CPTSD represent important elements in a ‘stress response continuum’, but also that other psychological disorders may be part of this. For example, anxiety, adjustment disorder, complicated grief, symptom indicators of borderline personality disorder, and psychotic-like experiences may all represent different points on the ‘stress response continuum’ and be predicted by specific patterns of trauma exposure. This model is analogous to the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) that models diagnoses as indictors of global trans-diagnostic latent variables (Kotov et al., 2017).This project will be based on data from a large nationally representative survey of the UK general population (data will be available December 2017) and is in collaboration with Thanos Karatzias, a Professor of Mental Health at Edinburgh Napier University, and a Clinical and Health Psychologist at the Rivers Centre for Traumatic Stress, Edinburgh. It is expected that the successful applicant will (1) develop a comprehensive understanding of psychometric models of mental health, (2) skills in quantitative statistical methods, (3) work with Professor Karatzias and Dr Gorman on the clinical implications of the study, and (4) be instrumental in the production of high-quality publications.


Kotov, R., Krueger, R. F., Watson, D., Achenbach, T. M., Althoff, R. R., Bagby, R. M.,…Zimmerman, M. (2017). The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP): A dimensional alternative to traditional nosologies. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(4), 454–477.
Cloitre, M., Garvert, D. W., Weiss, B., Carlson, E. B., & Bryant, R. A. (2014). Distinguishing PTSD, complex PTSD, and borderline personality disorder: A latent class analysis. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5(1), 25097.
Wolf, E. J., Miller, M. W., Kilpatrick, D., Resnick, H. S., Badour, C. L., Marx, B. P., ... & Friedman, M. J. (2015). ICD–11 complex PTSD in US national and veteran samples: Prevalence and structural associations with PTSD. Clinical Psychological Science, 3(2), 215-229.
Schnyder, U., & Cloitre, M. (Eds.). (2015). Evidence based treatments for trauma-related psychological disorders: A practical guide for clinicians. Springer.
Caspi, A., Houts, R. M., Belsky, D. W., Goldman-Mellor, C. J., Harrington, H., Israel, S., … Moffitt, T. E. (2014). The p factor: one general psychopathology factor in the structure of psychiatric disorders? Clinical Psychological Science, 2, 119-137.
Kotov, R., Ruggero, C. J., Krueger, R. F., Watson, D., Yuan, Q., & Zimmerman, M. (2011). New dimensions in the quantitative classification of mental illness. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68, 1003-1011.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 70%
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 19 February 2018

Interview Date
Week commencing 12th March 2018

Contact supervisor

Professor Mark Shevlin

Other supervisors


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