Parameters of aggressive behavior in a treatment seeking sample of military personnel: A secondary analysis of three randomized controlled trials of evidence-based PTSD treatments.

Berke, D. S., Carney, J. R., Rusowicz-Orazem, L., Kline, N. K., Grunthal, B., Mintz, J., Yarvis, J. S., Peterson, A. L., Young-McCaughan, S., Foa, E. B., Resick, P. A., & Litz, B. T., for the STRONG STAR Consortium.
Jan 1, 2021

Behavior Therapy, 52(1), 136–148.

Aggressive behavior is prevalent among veterans of post-9/11 conflicts who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, little is known about whether PTSD treatments reduce aggression or the direction of the association between changes in PTSD symptoms and aggression in the context of PTSD treatment. We combined data from three clinical trials of evidence-based PTSD treatment in service members (N = 592) to: (1) examine whether PTSD treatment reduces psychological (e.g., verbal behavior) and physical aggression, and; (2) explore temporal associations between aggressive behavior and PTSD. Both psychological (Estimate = -2.20, SE = 0.07) and physical aggression (Estimate = -0.36, SE = 0.05) were significantly reduced from baseline to posttreatment follow-up. Lagged PTSD symptom reduction was not associated with reduced reports of aggression; however, higher baseline PTSD scores were significantly associated with greater reductions in psychological aggression (exclusively; ß = -0.67, 95% CI = -1.05, -0.30, SE = -3.49). Findings reveal that service members receiving PTSD treatment report substantial collateral changes in psychological aggression over time, particularly for participants with greater PTSD symptom severity. Clinicians should consider cotherapies or alternative ways of targeting physical aggression among service members with PTSD and alternative approaches to reduce psychological aggression among service members with relatively low PTSD symptom severity when considering evidence-based PTSD treatments.