Relation between coping and posttrauma cognitions on PTSD in a combat-trauma population

Individual differences in cognitive processes and coping behaviors play a role in the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Given the large numbers of combat-exposed service members returning from the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) conflicts, exploring individual differences in cognitive-affective processes is important for informing our understanding of PTSD etiology and early intervention in military samples. The present study examined the unique main and interactive effects of negative posttrauma cognitions (i.e., negative beliefs about self [NS], the world [NW], and self-blame [SB]) and coping strategies (i.e., positive behavioral, positive cognitive, avoidant coping, and social and emotional coping) on PTSD diagnosis within 155 (Mage = 30.7, SD = 4.48) OEF/OIF/OND combat trauma-exposed Veterans recruited from an ongoing study examining the effects of combat trauma and stress reactivity. In the final, stepwise logistic regression analysis, avoidant coping, but no other coping strategy, was significantly positively related to PTSD diagnosis in the initial step. Higher levels of NS, but not NW, were significantly associated with having a PTSD diagnosis, whereas SB was associated with decreased likelihood of PTSD, above and beyond coping strategies. A significant interaction effect was found between NS and positive cognitive coping, such that greater positive cognitive coping weakened the relationship between NS and PTSD. Examining and addressing coping behaviors and negative thoughts of self jointly may benefit assessment and intervention approaches in a combat-trauma population.