Posttraumatic stress disorder clusters and suicidal ideation

Lily A Brown, Ateka Contractor, Kathy Benhamou
Psychiatry Research 2018, 270: 238-245

BACKGROUND: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with suicidal ideation and behavior. However, less is known about how the PTSD symptom clusters, namely alterations in arousal and reactivity (AAR), negative alterations in cognitions and mood (NACM), avoidance, and intrusion, uniquely relate to suicidal ideation. This study aimed to characterize the associations among suicidal ideation and these symptom clusters.

METHODS: Study 1 (n = 346) and Study 2 (n = 194) included community members and treatment-seeking adults at an anxiety specialty clinic, respectively. Participants completed measures of trauma exposure, PTSD symptoms, and suicidal ideation.

RESULTS: In both studies, suicidal ideation significantly and positively correlated with all PTSD factors. In Study 1, Wald tests of parameter constraints indicated that NACM and AAR had the strongest associations with suicidal ideation, followed by intrusion and avoidance. Results were replicated when restricting the sample to individuals with probable PTSD. In Study 2, suicidal ideation significantly and positively correlated with all PTSD factors; there were no differences in the strength of the suicidal ideation-PTSD factors relations.

LIMITATIONS: The studies were cross-sectional and relied on a single-item measure of suicidal ideation.

DISCUSSION: All PTSD factors significantly and positively correlated with suicidal ideation, and the NACM and AAR PTSD clusters were most strongly associated with suicidal ideation in Study 1. Therefore, clinicians should be cautious to thoroughly screen patients with elevations on these PTSD cluster scores for suicide risk.

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