PTSD Symptoms and Suicidality in College Students: The Role of Distress Tolerance
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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a strong predictor of suicide attempts and has been shown to independently predict suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Distress tolerance (DT), which refers to the capacity to tolerate negative emotional and/or physical states, is a cognitive-affective factor with clinical relevance to PTSD and suicidality. No studies to date have examined these associations among undergraduate students, a population at risk for suicidal ideation and behavior. It was hypothesized that greater PTSD symptom severity and lower perceived DT, respectively, would be associated with greater suicidal ideation and suicide risk; and that PTSD symptom severity would exert an indirect effect on suicidality through perceived DT. Covariates included trauma load, negative affectivity, and sociodemographic factors. Participants were composed of 740 trauma-exposed undergraduate students (78.1% female; Mage= 21.9) who consented to and completed self-report survey questionnaires. Results indicated that greater PTSD symptom severity and lower DT, respectively, were significantly associated with greater suicidal ideation and suicide risk. Further, PTSD symptom severity may exert an indirect effect on suicidal ideation and suicide risk through perceived DT. Effects were documented after controlling for theoretically relevant covariates. Clinical and research implications to be discussed.