Modeling PTSD Symptom Clusters, Alcohol Misuse, Anger, and Depression as They Relate to Aggression and Suicidality in Returning U.S. Veterans

J Trauma Stress. 2012 Oct;25(5):527-34. doi: 10.1002/jts.21732.


Suicidal ideation and aggression are common correlates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among U.S. Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The existing literature has established a strong link between these factors, but a more nuanced understanding of how PTSD influences them is needed. The current study examined the direct and indirect relationships between PTSD symptom clusters and suicidal ideation in general aggression (without a specified target) regarding depression, alcohol misuse, and trait anger. Participants were 359 (92% male) U.S. Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans. Path analysis results suggested that the PTSD numbing cluster was directly (β = .28, p < .01) and indirectly (β = .17, p = .001) related through depression. The PTSD hyperarousal cluster was indirectly related to suicidal ideation through depression (β = .13, p < .001). The PTSD reexperiencing cluster was directly related to aggression (β = .17, p < .05), whereas the PTSD numbing and hyperarousal clusters were indirectly related to aggression through trait anger (β = .05, p < .05; β = .20, p < .001). These findings indicate that adjunct treatments aimed at stabilizing anger, depression, and alcohol misuse may help clinicians ameliorate the maladaptive patterns often observed in veterans. These results also point to specific manifestations of PTSD and co-occurring conditions that may inform clinicians in their attempts to identify at risk veterans and facilitate preventative interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression*
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Anger*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • United States
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Young Adult