Category: Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders and Disasters

Symposium

The Role of Posttraumatic Emotions in the Association of Deployment Experiences and PTSD

Sunday, November 19
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Cobalt 500, Level 5, Cobalt Level

Keywords: Stress | Military | Emotion
Presentation Type: Symposium

Emerging literature suggests that different types of traumatic events link to different types of post traumatic emotional experiences (Amstadter & Vernon, 2008; Badour, Resnick, & Kilpatrick, 2015). Literature in this area is primarily focused on traumas involving threats to physical wellbeing, such as assault or illness (Amstadter & Vernon, 2008; Platt & Freyd, 2015), in civilian or military samples. However, Stein and colleagues (2012) suggest that, in military samples, moral injury is a distinct traumatic experience associated with unique trauma sequelae. Yet little empirical research has directly examined varying levels or types of emotional responses to more traditional deployment traumas (i.e., threats to life) versus moral-focused trauma (i.e., moral injury).


To examine this issue, data were gathered from 133 male soldiers who had returned from deployment within the past 2 years and reported that their most stressful deployment event was either a threat to their life or safety (n = 52) or committing/witnessing a moral injury (n = 81). Soldiers completed the PTSD Checklist—Military (PCL-M). Additionally, participants completed an adapted version of the Peritraumatic and Posttraumatic Emotions Questionnaire (PEQ; Stein et al., 2012), examining past-month emotions related to the deployment event that they identified as most stressful. Three factors from the PEQ were examined: broad negative emotions, fear-based emotions, and morality-based emotions.


A MANOVA revealed significant differences in emotional reactions based on the worse stressful deployment experience (p < .001), such that soldiers who reported moral injury as their most stressful experience reported higher broad negative and morality-based emotions compared to soldiers who reported a threat to their life or safety. Moral injury was also significantly more likely to exert indirect effects on PTSD symptom severity through broad negative and morality-based emotions compared to threats to life/safety. Overall, these results highlight the distinct emotional associations between moral injury and life-threatening experiences during deployment.

Lauren Paige

Doctoral Student
George Mason University

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