Experiental avoidance and disgust in the context of moral injury: implications for psychological adjustment among veterans

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Hannah Marie Hinkel (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/
Kia Asberg

Abstract: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression are pervasive mental health concerns among veteran populations. One factor that has been implicated in the development and maintenance of PTSD and depression is experiential avoidance (EA). Similarly, disgust, a strong aversive moral emotion has also been implicated in the development and maintenance of PTSD and depression. However, EA and disgust have not been explored in relationship to an emerging construct called moral injury. Morally injurious experiences (MIEs) entail perpetrating, failing to prevent, witnessing, or learning about acts that violate deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. Moral injury manifests as psychological, social, behavioral and spiritual problems and reflects an internal struggle for reconciling MIEs with personally held interpretations of right and wrong. Thus, the present study sought to elucidate the impact of EA and disgust in the relationship between moral injury and mental health outcomes among male veterans. Results were based on data from a sample of 62 male veterans who completed surveys on their military background, moral injury, EA, disgust, PTSD-related symptomatology, and depressive symptomatology. Results supported our hypothesis that EA was associated with moral injury such that non-acceptance of unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations was associated with several core components of moral injury (i.e., more guilt, shame, betrayal, loss of trust, difficulty forgiving, and self-condemnation). Similarly, results suggested that disgust was associated with moral injury, such that the more likely a veteran reports experiencing disgust reactions and being emotionally bothered by disgust, the more symptoms of moral injury they report. Further analyses revealed that EA and disgust did not seem to independently mediate the association between moral injury and PTSD-related symptomatology and depressive symptomatology, respectively. These findings demonstrate a need to better clarify specific moral emotions that may be elicited in response to moral injury, as well as how veterans cope with those emotions, although these relationships should be replicated utilizing a larger sample size. Additional clinical implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research will be discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Disgust, Experiential avoidance, Moral injury, Veterans

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