Examining anxiety sensitivity as a mediator of the association between PTSD symptoms and suicide risk among women firefighters.
Stanley, I., Hom, M., Spencer-Thomas, S., & Joiner, T.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms are associated with increased suicide risk. Anxiety sensitivity (AS)—the fear of anxiety-related sensations—is both a vulnerability factor for and consequence of PTSD symptoms. AS also predicts suicide risk. To our knowledge, no study has examined whether AS concerns account for the association between PTSD symptoms and suicide risk.
A total of 254 women firefighters completed a web-based mental health survey. The Life Events Checklist for DSM-5 (LEC-5) was administered as a prelude to the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) to assess for exposure to a Criterion A event. The PCL-5, Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3 (ASI-3), and Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised (SBQ-R) were utilized to assess PTSD symptoms, AS concerns, and suicide risk, respectively. Bootstrap mediation analyses were conducted, controlling for depression symptoms as measured by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale—Revised (CESD-R).
Global and cognitive AS concerns, but neither physical nor social AS concerns, were statistically significant mediators of the relationship between PTSD symptoms (total score, re-experiencing and numbing clusters) and suicide risk. Alternate mediation models testing PTSD symptoms as a mediator of the relationship between AS concerns and suicide risk were not statistically significant, supporting the specificity of our proposed model.
Anxiety sensitivity concerns—specifically, cognitive AS concerns—account for the link between PTSD symptoms and suicide risk among women firefighters. Among firefighters with elevated PTSD symptoms, interventions that address cognitive AS concerns may thwart the trajectory to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.