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Physical Injury, PTSD Symptoms, and Medication Use: Examination in Two Trauma Types


  • Support for this project was provided in part by the Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence position held by Dr. Gayle Beck. The authors would like to thank the Trauma Research and Recovery Lab, especially Riley Nicholson, Michayela Rosario, and Elizabeth Vega, for their valuable research assistance. The authors would also like to thank the study participants and staff involved in the Buffalo MVA Project and the Athena Project at the University of Memphis.


Physical injury is prevalent across many types of trauma experiences and can be associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and physical health effects, including increased medication use. Recent studies suggest that PTSD symptoms may mediate the effects of traumatic injury on health outcomes, but it is unknown whether this finding holds for survivors of different types of traumas. The current study examined cross-sectional relationships between injury, PTSD, and pain and psychiatric medication use in 2 trauma-exposed samples, female survivors of motor vehicle accidents (MVAs; n = 315) and intimate partner violence (IPV; n = 167). Data were obtained from participants at 2 trauma research clinics who underwent a comprehensive assessment of psychopathology following the stressor. Regression with bootstrapping suggested that PTSD symptoms mediate the relationship between injury severity and use of pain medications, R2 = .11, F(2, 452) = 28.37, p < .001, and psychiatric medications, R2 = .06, F(2, 452) = 13.18, p < .001, as hypothesized. Mediation, however, was not moderated by trauma type (ps > .05). Results confirm an association between posttraumatic psychopathology and medication usage and suggest that MVA and IPV survivors alike may benefit from assessment and treatment of emotional distress after physical injury.

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