PTSD Symptoms and Perception of Cognitive Problems: The Roles of Posttraumatic Cognitions and Trauma Coping Self-Efficacy
Objective: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with mild neurocognitive deficits, yet clients often complain of cognitive problems that exceed what their objective performance demonstrates. In addition, PTSD is associated with negative appraisals about the self, traumatic event, and one’s ability to cope. This study examined posttraumatic cognitions as a moderator, and trauma coping self-efficacy as a mediator, of the relationship between PTSD symptoms and self-report of cognitive problems. Method: A sample of 268 trauma-exposed adults completed the PTSD Checklist for DSM–5, the Posttraumatic Cognitions Inventory, the Trauma Coping Self-Efficacy Scale, the Cognitive Self-Report Questionnaire, and the Quality of Life Scale. Results: Negative self-appraisals was a significant moderator in the relationship between PTSD symptoms and perception of cognitive problems (β = −.252, p = .001). In participants with high levels of negative posttraumatic cognitions, perception of cognitive problems was high regardless of PTSD symptom level. In a mediator analysis, there was a significant indirect effect of trauma coping self-efficacy (b = .125, 95% CI [.088, .172]). Finally, there was evidence of moderated mediation, such that trauma coping self-efficacy was a mediator only when posttraumatic cognitions were low or average. Conclusions: Results indicate that posttraumatic appraisals and coping self-efficacy play significant roles in perception of cognitive problems following trauma. Clinically, in patients for which there is a perception of cognitive impairment that is not borne out in neuropsychological testing, cognitive–behavioral therapy focused on altering negative self-perceptions and appraisals may be beneficial.