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OBJECTIVE: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) remains a growing public health challenge across the globe and is associated with negative and persistent long-term consequences. The last decades of research have identified different mechanisms associated with the development and persistence of PTSD, including maladaptive coping strategies, cognitive and experiential avoidance, and positive and negative metacognitions. Despite these advances, little is known about how these different processes interact with specific PTSD symptoms, and how they influence each other over time at the within-person level. METHOD: Leveraging a large (N > 1,800) longitudinal data set representative of the Norwegian population during the COVID-19 pandemic, this preregistered study investigated these symptom-process interactions over four assessment waves spanning an 8-month period. RESULTS: Our panel graphical vector autoregressive network model revealed the dominating role of substance use to cope in predicting higher levels of PTSD symptoms over time and increases in PTSD symptomatology within more proximal time windows (i.e., within 6 weeks). Threat monitoring was associated with increased suicidal ideation, while threat monitoring itself was increasing upon decreased avoidance behavior, greater presence of negative metacognitions, and higher use of substances to cope. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings speak to the importance of attending to different coping strategies, particularly the use of substances as a coping behavior in efforts to prevent PTSD chronicity upon symptom onset. We outline future directions for research efforts to better understand the complex interactions and temporal pathways leading up to the development and maintenance of PTSD symptomatology. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

Original publication




Journal article


Psychol Trauma

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