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Impact of Trauma Exposure and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms on Baseline Self-Reported Safety Behaviors Versus Observer-Rated Safety Behaviors During the Trauma Film Paradigm

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Caleb Woolston

Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a high-burden disorder marked by the tendency to engage in safety behaviors (SB) to avoid distress when an individual is facing fearful situations, which published literature suggests maintains their symptoms. However, work in other disorders (e.g., obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder) suggests there exists a discrepancy between observer-measured SB and patients' self-reported SB, creating a need to examine if this is also the case for PTSD, and whether this discrepancy exists in those who have simply had a traumatic exposure or is observed primarily in those with the presence of significant PTSD symptoms. We expect that the presence of increasing PTSD symptoms will be correlated with greater SBs in general and that those with PTSD symptoms will have a greater discrepancy between these two types of SBs. Methods: We used a between-subject design to examine an observer-rated measure of safety behaviors performed by participants exposed to distressing trauma-related videos compared to a self-reported measure of SB (Safety Behaviors Assessment Form; SBAF) for three groups: individuals with no trauma exposure (n = 77), those with trauma exposure but minimal PTSD symptoms (n = 50) and those with trauma exposure and probable PTSD (n = 24), (PTSD symptoms were measured via the Primary Care PTSD Screen-5; PC-PTSD-5). Results: Correlational analysis revealed probable PTSD is correlated to higher self-reported SB (r = .27, p<.001), but not observer-rated SB (r = -.04, p=.69). An analysis-of-variance revealed a significant discrepancy between self-reported and observer-rated SBs for those with probable PTSD compared to the other two groups, who did not show significant discrepancy in type of SBs (F (2,101) =3.53, p= .033), such that those with probable PTSD reported greater self-reported SBs. Conclusions: Consistent with expectations, we found that individuals with probable PTSD showed greater discrepancies in types of SBs. Such a finding suggests SB may be more covert and internalized for individuals with PTSD, and therefore harder for observers to catch and report, underscoring the need for clinicians and researchers to ensure that they are utilizing adequate and validated self-report measures to capture SBs in individuals with PTSD.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Type: Poster
Format: In Person
Presentation #A58
SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)
Area of Research: Social Sciences
Faculty Mentor: Anu Asnaani