Strategies for Coping With Individual PTSD Symptoms: Experiences of African American Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

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Objective: Understanding how populations at particular risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its deleterious outcomes cope with individual PTSD symptoms is critical to developing interventions that promote resilience, support recovery, and ultimately empower traumatized populations. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify specific strategies women use to cope with individual PTSD symptoms among a population at particular risk for experiencing trauma and its negative sequelae—African American victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) who use substances. Method: This 30-day study included 107 African American women who reported experiencing current IPV and using a substance. During their follow-up interviews, women participated in a structured interview to retrospectively report on the strategies they typically used to cope with various PTSD symptoms during the 30-day period. Results: Results of content analysis revealed that women used 19 different strategies to cope with symptoms (e.g., social support, substance use, electronic media, religious or spiritual coping), which varied as a function of the PTSD symptom experienced. Aggregating symptoms to the cluster level obscured the variability in strategies used to cope with individual symptoms. Conclusions: Findings are discussed in the context of the larger literature on coping and PTSD, specifically regarding (a) coping strategies that may be adaptive or maladaptive and (b) directions for future research that attend to experiences of individual PTSD symptoms.

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