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Psychol Trauma. 2019 Jan 28. doi: 10.1037/tra0000429. [Epub ahead of print]

Positive and negative affect in the daily life of world trade center responders with PTSD: An ecological momentary assessment study.

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Department of Psychology, University of North Texas.
Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Department of Psychiatry, Stony Brook University.
Department of Medicine, Stony Brook University.



The ability to experience positive affect (PA) has clinical and quality of life implications, particularly in vulnerable populations such as trauma-exposed disaster responders. Low PA is included in the diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), however evidence for PA reduction in PTSD has been mixed. In contrast, negative affect (NA) has consistently been found to be elevated among individuals with PTSD. Multiday, ecological momentary assessment (EMA) can provide more ecologically valid evidence about experiences of affect; however, no such studies have been conducted in traumatized individuals with PTSD to date.


World Trade Center (WTC) responders (N = 202) oversampled for the presence of PTSD were recruited from the WTC Health Program. Participants were administrated the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV and the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 at baseline, then completed EMA surveys of affect four times a day over seven consecutive days.


Participants with current PTSD (19.3% of the sample) showed significantly higher levels of daily NA compared with those without PTSD. However, there was no group difference in daily PA, nor was PA associated with a dimensional measure of PTSD.


Results suggest that for chronic PTSD among disaster responders, positive emotions are not inhibited across daily living. Such findings add to evidence suggesting that PA reduction may not be diagnostically relevant to PTSD, whereas NA remains an important target for therapeutic interventions. Moreover, results show that WTC responders can experience and benefit from positive emotion, even if they continue to have PTSD symptoms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).


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