Keywords: PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Emotion Regulation | Risky Behaviors
Presentation Type: Symposium
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been linked to a wide array of risky and health-compromising behaviors, including risky sexual behavior (RSB; Tull et al., 2016). Emotion dysregulation is one factor that may improve our understanding of the relation between PTSD symptoms and RSB. Cross-sectional studies reveal positive associations between emotion dysregulation and both PTSD (Tull et al., 2007; Weiss et al., 2013) and RSB (Messman-Moore et al., 2010; Tull et al., 2012). This study extends prior work by exploring whether intermediary levels of emotion dysregulation across multiple dimensions account for the relation between baseline PTSD symptoms and RSB 16 months later.
A community sample of 447 trauma-exposed women aged 18-25 were recruited from four sites in the Southern and Midwestern United States (M age = 21.80; 60% White; 36% Black/African American). Participants completed five assessments (separated by 4-month increments) over a 16-month period. PTSD symptoms were assessed at baseline using the PTSD Checklist (Weathers et al., 1993), intermediary emotion dysregulation was assessed at 8-months using the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (Gratz & Roemer, 2004), and RSB was assessed from 8-16 months using a modification of the Sexual Risk Survey (Turchik & Garske, 2009).
Results provided support for the mediating role of intermediary emotion dysregulation dimensions in the relation between PTSD symptoms and later RSB, revealing significant indirect effects of baseline PTSD symptoms on (a) 16-month number of vaginal sex partners through both the nonacceptance of negative emotions and difficulties controlling impulsive behaviors when distressed at 8-months, and (b) 16-month risky/impulsive sex through difficulties engaging in goal-directed behaviors when distressed at 8-months.
The findings of this study suggest the utility of teaching trauma-exposed women with heightened PTSD symptoms skills for approaching emotions in a nonjudgmental and non-evaluative way, redirecting attention to non-emotional stimuli, and promoting more adaptive actions in the face of negative emotional arousal.
Yale School of Medicine
Saturday, November 18
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
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