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Rumination Moderates the Associations Between PTSD and Depressive Symptoms and Risky Behaviors in U. S. Veterans

Authors

  • Ashley Borders,

    Corresponding author
    1. The College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey, USA
    • Department of Veterans Affairs, NJ War Related Illness & Injury Study Center, East Orange, New Jersey, USA
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  • Lisa M. McAndrew,

    1. Department of Veterans Affairs, NJ War Related Illness & Injury Study Center, East Orange, New Jersey, USA
    2. New Jersey Medical School-University of Medicine & Dentistry of NJ, Newark, New Jersey, USA
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  • Karen S. Quigley,

    1. Department of Veterans Affairs, Bedford Memorial Hospital, Bedford, Massachusetts, USA
    2. Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
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  • Helena K. Chandler

    1. Department of Veterans Affairs, NJ War Related Illness & Injury Study Center, East Orange, New Jersey, USA
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  • This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC), Department of Veterans Affairs, New Jersey Health Care System. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ashley Borders, Department of Veterans Affairs, NJ-War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, East Orange, New Jersey. E-mail: borders@tcnj.edu

Abstract

Risky behaviors, including unsafe sex, aggression, rule breaking, self-injury, and dangerous substance use have become a growing issue for U.S. veterans returning from combat deployments. Evidence in nonveteran samples suggests that risky behaviors reflect efforts to cope with and alleviate depressive and/or anxious symptoms, particularly for individuals with poor emotion-regulation skills. These associations have not been studied in veterans. Rumination, or repeated thoughts about negative feelings and past events, is a coping strategy that is associated with several psychopathologies common in veterans. In this cross-sectional study, 91 recently returned veterans completed measures of trait rumination, self-reported risky behaviors, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Analyses revealed that veterans with more depressive and PTSD symptoms reported more risky behaviors. Moreover, rumination significantly interacted with PTSD symptoms and depressive symptoms (both β = .21, p < .05), such that psychiatric symptoms were associated with risky behaviors only for veterans with moderate to high levels of rumination. Although cross-sectional, these findings support theory that individuals with poor coping skills may be particularly likely to respond to negative mood states by engaging in risky behaviors. Implications include using rumination-focused interventions with veterans in order to prevent engagement in risky behaviors.

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