Latent-level relations between DSM-5 PTSD symptom clusters and problematic smartphone use

Ateka A Contractor, Sheila B Frankfurt, Nicole H Weiss, Jon D Elhai
Computers in Human Behavior 2017, 72: 170-177
Common mental health consequences following the experience of potentially traumatic events include Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addictive behaviors. Problematic smartphone use is a newer manifestation of addictive behaviors. People with anxiety severity (such as PTSD) may be at risk for problematic smartphone use as a means of coping with their symptoms. Unique to our knowledge, we assessed relations between PTSD symptom clusters and problematic smartphone use. Participants ( N = 347), recruited through Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk), completed measures of PTSD and smartphone addiction. Results of the Wald tests of parameter constraints indicated that problematic smartphone use was more related to PTSD's negative alterations in cognitions and mood (NACM) than to PTSD's avoidance factor, Wald χ2 (1, N = 347) = 12.51, p = 0.0004; and more to PTSD's arousal compared to PTSD's avoidance factor, Wald χ2 (1, N = 347) = 14.89, p = 0.0001. Results indicate that problematic smartphone use is most associated with negative affect and arousal among trauma-exposed individuals. Implications include the need to clinically assess problematic smartphone use among trauma-exposed individuals presenting with higher NACM and arousal severity; and targeting NACM and arousal symptoms to mitigate the effects of problematic smartphone use.

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