Coping Strategy Utilization Among Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Severity and Substance Use Co-Occurrence Typologies: A Latent Class Analysis

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Objective: There is a lack of research on primary prevention of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and substance use among trauma-exposed populations. To guide the development of more effective prevention efforts, the current study sought to identify underlying coping mechanisms that impact PTSD-substance use co-occurrence. Method: A person-centered analytic approach (latent class analysis) examined PTSD-substance use co-occurrence typologies (classes) and identified theoretically adaptive (e.g., active coping) and maladaptive (e.g., denial) coping strategies that differentiated between classes among a sample of 1,270 trauma-exposed participants (Mage = 20.71, 73.5% female, 45.7% White). Results: Latent class analysis identified five distinct typologies, reflective of extant epidemiological and etiological work. Generally, behavioral disengagement and self-blame coping increased the likelihood of being in more severe PTSD-illicit substance use (e.g., cocaine) comorbidity classes. Positive reframing and planning differentiated between low and moderate illicit substance typologies with moderate PTSD severity. Venting, acceptance, and self-distraction differentiated between asymptomatic and moderate PTSD severity typologies with low illicit substance use. Conclusions: Findings identify general coping strategies associated with increased likelihood of being in more severe comorbidity typologies, as well as several unique coping strategies associated with risk of transitioning between low/moderate PTSD and illicit substance use classes. Relevant interventions (e.g., trauma psychoeducation, guilt-reduction therapy, psychological first aid) that may be targets for future prevention-oriented work are discussed.

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Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy