Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
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Background: Up to 50% of individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) endorse problematic alcohol use. Typically, these individuals present with more complex and often more severe PTSD symptoms than those who do not report problematic alcohol use. Emerging literature suggests that heightened symptoms of dissociation are likewise associated with greater PTSD symptom severity. Despite this knowledge, the role of dissociation in the relation between PTSD severity and alcohol-related problems has yet to be examined. Here, we explore the mediating role of dissociative symptomatology on the association between PTSD severity and alcohol-related problems within a PTSD treatment-seeking sample. Methods: Structural equation modeling was used to test the mediating role of dissociative symptomatology between PTSD severity and alcohol-related problems. Participants [N = 334; mean age (SD) = 44.29 (9.77), 50% female] were drawn from a clinical intake battery database for PTSD in-patient treatment services at Homewood Health Care, Guelph, ON, Canada. A subset of battery measures assessing PTSD severity, dissociative symptomatology, and alcohol-related problems were submitted to analysis. Results: A significant positive association emerged between PTSD severity and alcohol-related problems (β = 0.127, p < 0.05) in the absence of dissociative symptomatology. Critically, however, when added to this model, dissociative symptomatology (six unique facets of dissociation assessed by the Multiscale Dissociation Inventory) mediated the relation between PTSD severity and alcohol-related problems. Specifically, greater PTSD severity was associated with greater dissociative symptomatology (β = 0.566, p < 0.0001), which was in turn associated with greater alcohol-related problems (β = 0.184, p < 0.05). Conclusions: These results suggest that dissociative symptomatology plays a key role in explaining the relation between PTSD severity and alcohol-related problems. Future studies should examine the impact of targeting dissociative symptomatology specifically in treating individuals with PTSD who endorse alcohol-related problems.