This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Suicidal Ideation: The Moderating Effect of Cognitive Distortions




Whiteman, Sarah

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis




Although individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at an increased risk for suicidal ideation (SI; Tarrier & Gregg, 2004), it is unclear which factors could influence this relationship. It is hypothesized that negatively distorted posttraumatic cognitions such as self-blame and negative beliefs about the world or self might play a role, but this has not been investigated empirically. Accordingly, the present study examined a moderation model in which the effect of PTSD on SI is moderated by cognitive distortions. To identify the specific source of this hypothesized moderation effect, the moderation model was run separately for PTSD total severity and PTSD symptom clusters in combination with each of three types of cognitive distortions (i.e., self-blame and negative cognitions about the self and world). Trauma-exposed undergraduates (N = 410) completed measures of traumatic event exposure, PTSD, cognitive distortions, and SI. As expected, all PTSD variables significantly predicted SI. Further, negative cognitions about the world moderated the relationship between all six measured PTSD variables and SI. Analyses of simple slopes revealed strong and significant effects of all measures of PTSD on SI at high levels of negative cognitions about the world. These findings highlight the importance of assessing cognitive distortions in determining suicide risk with trauma survivors.