Disentangling the Symptom-Level Nuances in Comorbid Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Problematic Alcohol Use in Northern Irish Military Veterans: A Network Analysis

Emily McGlinchey, Jana Ross, Dominic Murphy, Gillian Shorter, Cherie Armour*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use are highly prevalent among military veteran populations. Several theories have been proposed to account for the comorbidity between PTSD and problematic alcohol use, but research examining the symptom-level associations between the two is limited. The current study used network analysis to examine the associations between PTSD and problematic alcohol use. Data were collected through a cross-sectional survey of veterans of the United Kingdom Armed Forces living in Northern Ireland. The sample comprised 511 (91.2% male) veterans with a history of trauma exposure and current alcohol use. A network consisting of PTSD symptoms from the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) and items from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) was constructed, and the bridge centrality of all items was estimated to identify items with the highest number of associations and the strongest associations between the two constructs. The PTSD symptom “reckless behavior” (2.43) had the highest bridge centrality values and thus the strongest connections and most connections to the alcohol use items. For the alcohol use items, “not being able to stop drinking” (2.31) and “number of drinks” (1.24) demonstrated the strongest bridge connections to the PTSD items. These results highlight the role of specific PTSD symptoms involved in the interaction between PTSD and problematic alcohol use.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Early online date20 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 20 Mar 2021

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