Posttraumatic Safety Behaviors: Characteristics and Associations With Symptom Severity in Two Samples


Journal Article

© 2019 American Psychological Association. People with anxiety-related disorders often engage in safety behaviors: overt or covert actions performed to prevent the occurrence of a feared outcome and/or reduce associated distress. Although clinical experience and conceptual models of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) underscore the deleterious long-term effects of such strategies on PTSD symptoms, little empirical research has specifically examined safety behaviors in the context of posttraumatic stress. The current multisite study was designed to identify common posttraumatic safety behaviors and examine their relation to symptom severity. Interview and self-report data were collected from adults residing in the Western United States reporting ongoing distress related to a lifetime traumatic event (n = 89) as well as from adults with a current PTSD diagnosis residing in the Southeastern United States (n = 47). Results showed that posttraumatic safety behaviors were not only common in both groups but also significantly correlated with trauma-related cognitions (rs = .39 -.45), self-reported PTSD symptoms (rs = .56 -.72), and interviewer-rated PTSD symptoms (rs = .32-.51). Findings point to specific posttraumatic coping strategies that would be important to consider in a clinical context.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Blakey, SM; Kirby, AC; McClure, KE; Elbogen, EB; Beckham, JC; Watkins, LL; Clapp, JD

Published Date

  • January 1, 2019

Published In

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1085-9373

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1534-7656

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/trm0000205

Citation Source

  • Scopus