Distress Variance and Specificity of Symptom Dimensions in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: a Quadripartite Perspective


The relation of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to other forms of psychopathology is complex as diagnostic criteria include symptoms of both mood- and anxiety-related conditions. Drawing from Watson’s (2009) quadripartite model of comorbidity, the current study examined (a) the association of PTSD symptom dimensions with indices of generalized distress, (b) the specificity of PTSD symptom dimensions for core aspects of anxiety and depression, and (c) the unique associations of symptom dimensions with markers of positive emotionality, somatic arousal, generalized distress, and cumulative trauma history. Confirmatory analyses were used to model symptom dimensions in help-seeking survivors of intimate partner violence (N = 238; 51.7% White/Non-Hispanic). Latent markers of positive emotionality, somatic arousal, and generalized distress were also estimated. A 3-factor version of the Simms et al. (2002) Dysphoria model was identified as a preferred solution, with Intrusion and Avoidance criteria collapsed on a common dimension. Analyses revealed moderate correlations of generalized distress with Intrusion-Avoidance, Dysphoria, and Hyperarousal dimensions (r =.30–.38). Intrusion-Avoidance and Hyperarousal factors evidenced specificity for the core aspects of anxiety while Dysphoria demonstrated an association with the characteristic features of depression when controlling for nonspecific distress. Hyperarousal was the only symptom dimension holding a unique association with cumulative trauma controlling for somatic arousal, positive emotionality, and generalized distress. Results offer preliminary support for the specificity of core dimensions of PTSD above and beyond the influence of nonspecific distress.

Publication Title

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment