Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicidal ideation, and Stress: The Moderating Role of Dysfunctional and Recovery Cognitions


Psychological Science

Document Type


Publication Date



Objective: Trauma and stressor-related behavioral health conditions are prevalent in military populations and have become a major public health concern in recent years. Individuals who commonly report suicidal ideation often have comorbid mental health diagnoses (i.e., posttraumatic stress disorder; PTSD). However, the mechanisms associated with stress, suicidal ideation, and PTSD are unclear. Method: The present study examined the moderating role of dysfunctional and recovery cognitions between (i) PTSD and suicidal ideation, and (ii) stress and suicidal ideation in two distinct samples. Sample 1 was composed of civilians and military personnel (N = 322). Sample 2 was composed of (N = 377) student service members and veterans (SSM/Vs). Results: In Study 1, we found that low recovery cognitions at higher and moderate levels of PTSD symptoms were significantly associated with increased suicidal ideation. High dysfunctional cognitions were significantly associated with suicidal ideation at higher levels of PTSD symptoms. In Study 2, we found no differences in any level of recovery cognitions at low and moderate stress levels with suicidal ideation. Higher levels of stress were associated with high dysfunctional cognitions and suicidal ideation. Conclusion: Promoting higher levels of recovery cognitions and reducing dysfunctional cognitions are important in addressing stress, suicidal ideation, and comorbid conditions such as PTSD. Future research should focus on examining the clinical utility of the Dispositional Recovery and Dysfunction Inventory (DRDI) in other populations (i.e., firefighters and paramedics). This could contribute to efforts of suicide prevention and the promotion of the well-being of individuals experiencing suicidal ideation.HIGHLIGHTS Promoting recovery cognitions may serve as a protective factor against stress. Dysfunctional cognitions contribute to worsening behavioral health conditions. Suicide prevention efforts should target dysfunctional and recovery cognitions.

Journal Title

Archives of Suicide Research

Journal ISSN


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)