Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Anxiety Sensitivity, and Alcohol-Use Motives in College Students With a History of Interpersonal Trauma


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Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms are associated with coping-motivated alcohol use in trauma-exposed samples. However, it is unclear which individuals experiencing PTSD symptoms are at greatest risk for alcohol-use problems following trauma exposure. Individuals endorsing high anxiety sensitivity, which is the fear of anxiety and related sensations, may be particularly motivated to use alcohol to cope with PTSD symptoms. In the current study, we examined the moderating role of anxiety sensitivity in the association between PTSD symptoms and coping motives in a sample of 295 young adults with a history of interpersonal trauma and current alcohol use. Participants completed measures of past 30-day alcohol consumption, trauma history, current PTSD symptoms, anxiety sensitivity, and alcohol-use motives. Results of hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that greater anxiety sensitivity was significantly associated with greater coping (β = .219) and conformity (β = .156) alcohol-use motives, and greater PTSD symptoms were associated with greater coping motives (β = .247), above and beyond the covariates of sex, alcohol consumption, trauma load, and noncriterion alcohol-use motives. The interaction of anxiety sensitivity and PTSD symptoms accounted for additional variance in coping motives above and beyond the main effects (β = .117), with greater PTSD symptoms being associated with greater coping motives among those high but not low in anxiety sensitivity. Assessment and treatment of PTSD symptoms and anxiety sensitivity in young adults with interpersonal trauma may be warranted as a means of decreasing alcohol-related risk in trauma-exposed young adults.

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