Main and Interactive Effects of Distress Tolerance and Negative Affect Intensity in Relation to PTSD Symptoms among Trauma-Exposed Adults

Abstract

The present investigation evaluated the main and interactive effects of distress tolerance and negative affect intensity in relation to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity and symptom cluster severity. Participants were 190 trauma-exposed adults (52.6 % women; M age = 25.3 years, SD = 11.4) recruited from the community. Distress tolerance (i.e., perceived ability to withstand distressing emotional states) demonstrated significant incremental associations with global PTSD symptom severity as well as Re-Experiencing, Emotional Numbing, and Hyperarousal symptom cluster severity. Negative affect intensity (i.e., perceived intensity of negative emotional responses) demonstrated significant incremental associations with each of the PTSD symptom outcomes. Moreover, the incremental interactive effect of distress tolerance and negative affect intensity was significantly associated with PTSD symptom severity as well as PTSD—Emotional Numbing symptom cluster severity. These incremental effects were evident after accounting for the variance explained by anxiety sensitivity (i.e., fear of anxiety-related sensations). Post hoc probing analyses supported the moderating role of negative affect intensity in the association between distress tolerance and PTSD symptom severity, such that low levels of distress tolerance, in the context of elevated levels of negative affect intensity, were associated with the greatest levels of PTSD symptoms.

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Notes

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    The pattern of results did not change when gender was included as a covariate in regression analyses.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported, in part, by grants awarded to Anka A. Vujanovic (1F31 DA021006-02), Erin C. Berenz (1F31 MH080453-01A1), and Amit Bernstein (1 F31MH73205-2). Amit Bernstein also recognizes the funding support from the Israeli Council for Higher Education Yigal Alon Fellowship, the European Union FP-7 Marie Curie Fellowship International Reintegration Grant, Psychology Beyond Borders Mission Award, Israel Science Foundation, the University of Haifa Research Authority Exploratory Grant, and the Rothschild-Caesarea Foundation’s Returning Scientists Project at the University of Haifa. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Vujanovic, A.A., Hart, A.S., Potter, C.M. et al. Main and Interactive Effects of Distress Tolerance and Negative Affect Intensity in Relation to PTSD Symptoms among Trauma-Exposed Adults. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 35, 235–243 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-012-9325-2

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Keywords

  • Distress tolerance
  • Affect intensity
  • PTSD
  • Trauma