An Initial Investigation of the Association Between Distress Intolerance and Posttraumatic Stress Within Military Sexual Trauma Survivors

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Objective: Researchers have recently found several links between distress intolerance (DI), the perceived inability to withstand aversive emotional and somatic states, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Despite this well-established relationship, DI has yet to be examined among victims of military sexual trauma (MST), a population known to have increased rates of PTSD. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to examine overall rates of DI, as well as the relationship between DI and PTSD symptom and cluster severity using an outpatient sample of MST survivors. Method: The sample included 103 veterans presenting for psychological services to an MST specialty clinic at a large southeastern Veterans Affairs hospital. As part of their intake evaluation, veterans completed a brief battery of self-report questionnaires to assist with diagnostic clarification and treatment planning. Results: Results revealed that DI was significantly associated with PTSD symptom severity above and beyond depression symptoms. Further, DI was significantly associated with the PTSD intrusion, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and arousal and reactivity clusters. Discussion: These findings provide initial evidence for a relationship between DI and PTSD symptoms within MST patients. Pending further research, investigators should determine the extent to which targeting this cognitive–behavioral construct reduces PTSD symptoms among MST samples.

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