The mediating role of anger in the relationship between PTSD symptoms and impulsivity

Ateka A. Contractor, Cherie Armour, Xin Wang, David Forbes, Jon D. Elhai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Research indicates a significant relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anger (Olatunji, Ciesielski, & Tolin, 2010; Orth & Wieland, 2006). Individuals may seek urgent coping to deal with the distress of anger, which is a mobilizing and action-oriented emotion (Novaco & Chemtob, 2002); possibly in the form of impulsive actions consistent with impulsivity's association with anger (Milligan & Waller, 2001; Whiteside & Lynam, 2001). This could be 1 of the explanations for the relationship between PTSD and impulsivity (Kotler, Julian, Efront, & Amir, 2001; Ledgerwood & Petry, 2006). The present study assessed the mediating role of anger between PTSD (overall scores and subscales of arousal and negative alterations in mood/cognitions) and impulsivity, using gender as a covariate of impulsivity. The PTSD Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), Dimensions of Anger Reaction scale-5, and the UPPS Impulsivity Scale were administered to a sample of 244 undergraduate students with a trauma history. Results based on 1000 bootstrapped samples indicated significant direct effects of PTSD (overall and 2 subscales) on anger, of anger on impulsivity, and of PTSD (overall and 2 subscales) on impulsivity. Further, anger significantly mediated the relationship between PTSD (overall and 2 subscales) and impulsivity, consistent with the hypothesized models. Results suggest that impulsivity aims at coping with distressing anger, possibly explaining the presence of substance usage, and other impulsive behaviors in people with PTSD. Further, anger probably serves as a mobilizing and action-oriented emotion coupled with PTSD symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-145
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • anger
  • impulsivity
  • mediation
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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