Anxiety, distress tolerance, and the relationship between complex posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and alcohol use in veterans

Seb Whiteford, Martyn Quigley, Glen Dighton, Katie Wood, Neil Kitchiner, Cherie Armour, Simon Dymond *

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Objectives
Little is known about whether distress tolerance and anxiety mediate the relationship between comorbid complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) and alcohol use among military veterans. Here, we investigated the contribution of distress tolerance and anxiety on the strength of the CPTSD and alcohol use association. We hypothesized that the impact of a two-factor model of CPTSD derived from subscale scores on the International Trauma Questionnaire (ITQ)—namely ITQ PTSD and ITQ Disturbances in Self Organization (DSO; e.g., issues with affective regulation/self-belief and shame)—on alcohol use severity would be mediated by anxiety but not by distress tolerance.

Methods
Participants included 403 community-dwelling United Kingdom (UK) veterans (91.64% male, Mage = 51.15 years, SD = 12.48) recruited as part of a larger, online study.

Results
Findings indicated that the influence of CPTSD symptoms on alcohol use severity was mediated by anxiety, not by distress tolerance, with greater relative impact due to ITQ DSO status than ITQ PTSD status.

Conclusions
We identified the mediational influence of anxiety and distress tolerance on the association between CPTSD subscales and alcohol use in UK veterans. Interventions for anxiety may be adapted for reducing problematic alcohol use and the impact of CPTSD symptoms in veterans with comorbid PTSD and alcohol use disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-169
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Volume80
Issue number1
Early online date20 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords

  • complex PTSD
  • disorders of self-organization
  • alcohol use
  • anxiety
  • distress tolerance
  • veterans

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