Project Title

Guilt and PTSD among Injured Combat Veterans: Implications of Self-Compassion and Posttraumatic Growth

Authors' Affiliations

Benjamin B. Hall1, Jessica McKinney1, Fuschia Sirois2, and Jameson K. Hirsch1 1Department of Psychology, East Tennessee State University 2Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield

Location

WhiteTop Mountain Room 225

Start Date

4-5-2018 8:00 AM

End Date

4-5-2018 12:00 PM

Poster Number

103

Name of Project's Faculty Sponsor

Jameson K. Hirsch

Faculty Sponsor's Department

Department of Psychology

Type

Poster: Competitive

Classification of First Author

Graduate Student-Doctoral

Project's Category

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract Text

Introduction: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects as many as 30 percent of United States veterans, who are often at greater risk for PTSD, due to adverse military experiences (e.g., combat injury). PTSD occurs when the natural process of recovery is obstructed by the individual’s cognitions and emotions, such as guilt, related to the traumatic event. Guilt has emerged in the literature as a significant contributor to the development and maintenance of PTSD. As such, researchers have sought protective factors that may attenuate the association between guilt and PTSD. One such factor, self-compassion, may facilitate the natural process of recovery, perhaps by promoting the process of posttraumatic growth (PTG) – a process of adaptive growth following a trauma. Our study examined the direct association between guilt and symptoms of PTSD, and the potential mediating role of self-compassion and PTG. At the bivariate level, we hypothesized that guilt will be inversely related to self-compassion and PTG, and positively associated with PTSD symptoms. At the multivariate level, we hypothesized that guilt will be directly related to PTSD symptoms and, further, indirectly related via its serial association with self-compassion and PTG. Methods: Participants (N = 172) in this IRB-approved study were recruited via online invitations distributed to veterans-related social media groups and national organizations (e.g., Veterans of Foreign Wars [VFW] chapters). Participants were included in the study if they reported experiencing injury during combat. Participants completed self-report surveys including the Differential Emotions Scale, the Self-Compassion Scale – Short Form, the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory – Short Form, and the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) – Military Version. Results: At the bivariate level, symptoms of PTSD were positively associated with guilt and both were negatively associated with self-compassion and PTG. Self-compassion and PTG were positively associated. At the multivariate level, guilt exhibited a significant total effect on PTSD that, while remaining significant, was significantly reduced when accounting for self-compassion and PTG. Guilt also exhibited a significant total indirect effect, via its deleterious impact on self-compassion. No other indirect pathways were significant. Conclusions: The association between guilt and symptoms of PTSD may be due, in part, to the stifling effect of guilt on self-compassion and post-traumatic growth. Therapeutically reducing guilt, perhaps via cognitive restructuring (e.g., about the nature of, or role in, trauma), or promoting self-compassion (e.g., via self-soothing, guided meditation; blessings journal) may, in turn, reduce symptoms of PTSD.

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Apr 5th, 8:00 AM Apr 5th, 12:00 PM

Guilt and PTSD among Injured Combat Veterans: Implications of Self-Compassion and Posttraumatic Growth

WhiteTop Mountain Room 225

Introduction: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects as many as 30 percent of United States veterans, who are often at greater risk for PTSD, due to adverse military experiences (e.g., combat injury). PTSD occurs when the natural process of recovery is obstructed by the individual’s cognitions and emotions, such as guilt, related to the traumatic event. Guilt has emerged in the literature as a significant contributor to the development and maintenance of PTSD. As such, researchers have sought protective factors that may attenuate the association between guilt and PTSD. One such factor, self-compassion, may facilitate the natural process of recovery, perhaps by promoting the process of posttraumatic growth (PTG) – a process of adaptive growth following a trauma. Our study examined the direct association between guilt and symptoms of PTSD, and the potential mediating role of self-compassion and PTG. At the bivariate level, we hypothesized that guilt will be inversely related to self-compassion and PTG, and positively associated with PTSD symptoms. At the multivariate level, we hypothesized that guilt will be directly related to PTSD symptoms and, further, indirectly related via its serial association with self-compassion and PTG. Methods: Participants (N = 172) in this IRB-approved study were recruited via online invitations distributed to veterans-related social media groups and national organizations (e.g., Veterans of Foreign Wars [VFW] chapters). Participants were included in the study if they reported experiencing injury during combat. Participants completed self-report surveys including the Differential Emotions Scale, the Self-Compassion Scale – Short Form, the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory – Short Form, and the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) – Military Version. Results: At the bivariate level, symptoms of PTSD were positively associated with guilt and both were negatively associated with self-compassion and PTG. Self-compassion and PTG were positively associated. At the multivariate level, guilt exhibited a significant total effect on PTSD that, while remaining significant, was significantly reduced when accounting for self-compassion and PTG. Guilt also exhibited a significant total indirect effect, via its deleterious impact on self-compassion. No other indirect pathways were significant. Conclusions: The association between guilt and symptoms of PTSD may be due, in part, to the stifling effect of guilt on self-compassion and post-traumatic growth. Therapeutically reducing guilt, perhaps via cognitive restructuring (e.g., about the nature of, or role in, trauma), or promoting self-compassion (e.g., via self-soothing, guided meditation; blessings journal) may, in turn, reduce symptoms of PTSD.