Moral injury symptoms and related problems among service members and Veterans: A network analysis

Natasha Benfer, Maya Bina N. Vannini, Breanna Grunthal, Benjamin C. Darnell, Gadi Zerach, Yossi Levi-Belz, Brett T. Litz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: Whether moral injury (MI) is distinct from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been debated. Both result from events that ofen defnitionally overlap (a potentially morally injurious event [PMIE] for MI, a Criterion A event for PTSD) and may promote similar dysfunctional experiences. Depressive symptoms may also follow such events and include outcomes common to both MI and PTSD. Tis study investigated the ways in which MI may be distinct from, and related to, PTSD and depression by examining networks consisting of MI-related outcomes (trust violation, shame, functioning), PTSD symptom clusters, and depression among those who reported experiencing a PMIE and those who did not. Methods: Two networks were estimated, consisting of PTSD symptoms, MI-shame-related outcomes, MI-trust-related outcomes, MI-related functioning, and depression in a sample of military personnel who did (n = 508) and did not (n = 123) experience a PMIE. Results: In both PMIE and non-PMIE networks, stronger connections existed within, versus across, constructs. Te PMIE network was denser than the non-PMIE network and driven by more connections across constructs. Negative alterations in cognitions and mood (NACM) clusters of PTSD and MI-related functioning were strong bridges connecting PTSD, MI, and depression. Discussion: MI, PTSD, and depression appear to be distinct but related clinical phenomena. NACM and MI-related functioning partially explain the co-occurrence in these constructs and thus may be important treatment targets. Te greater connections across constructs in the PMIE network supports the hypothesis that experiencing a PMIE may trigger dynamic interactions among PTSD, MI-related outcomes, and depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-71
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Military, Veteran and Family Health
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Keywords

  • depression
  • military
  • moral injury
  • network analysis
  • PMIE
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • potentially morally injurious events
  • PTSD
  • Veterans

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