DOI: 10.1177/24705470231189980 ISSN: 2470-5470

Cognitive Adaptation to Stress and Trauma: The Role of Self-Appraised Problem-Solving in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Anita Padmanabhanunni, Tyrone B. Pretorius
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


Cognitive appraisals play a fundamental role in mental health outcomes following exposure to trauma. Appraisals influence emotional reactions, coping responses, and adaptation to stress and represent a modifiable factor that can serve as a central focus for intervention. Most studies have primarily focused on the role of dysfunctional cognitions in the persistence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this study, we extend research in this area by investigating the role of problem-solving appraisal, an adaptive cognitive strategy, in the association between stress and PTSD.


A total of 322 participants completed the Perceived Stress Scale, the problem-solving inventory (PSI), and the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5. Descriptive statistics were generated, and intercorrelations and mediation analysis were performed.


Problem-solving confidence and personal control partially mediated the relationship between stress and PTSD. However, contrary to existing research, the approach-avoidance style, which is a subscale of the PSI, did not mediate the relationship between these variables.


Interventions for PTSD should incorporate a complementary focus on developing and increasing adaptive cognitions pertaining to personal control and confidence in problem-solving abilities. This could potentially form part of a broader process of rebuilding the individual's cognitive worldview following exposure to trauma.

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