Relationship Satisfaction, PTSD Symptom Severity, and Mental Healthcare Utilization Among OEF/OIF Veterans

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Despite the availability of evidence-based PTSD treatments at most facilities within the VA Healthcare System, most Iraq and Afghanistan veterans returning from deployments with posttraumatic stress symptoms do not receive an adequate dose of mental health treatment, prompting the need to identify potential barriers to or facilitators of mental health care utilization. Previous research demonstrated self-reported mental health care utilization in the prior year varies as a function of PTSD symptom severity, and the interaction of PTSD symptom severity and romantic relationship satisfaction (Meis et al., 2010). We extended these findings by objectively measuring the degree of utilization over a 1-year period (i.e., number of sessions attended) in a sample of 130 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who presented to primary care/deployment health and completed an initial mental health evaluation. Results indicated main and interactive effects of PTSD symptom severity and relationship satisfaction, such that greater PTSD symptom severity was associated with greater utilization at average to high relationship satisfaction (p < .05), but not low relationship satisfaction. Implications for future research and couple/family based interventions for veterans with PTSD are discussed.

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