Distress overtolerance among firefighters: Associations with posttraumatic stress. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: Firefighters experience heightened rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms compared to the general population. Nascent literature has identified distress overtolerance (DO; i.e., the tendency to persist through extremely high levels of distress despite harmful consequences) as a construct of potential relevance to PTSD symptomatology, though empirical research is lacking. The present study examined incremental associations between DO subscales (Capacity for Harm: persevering through distress despite its effect on 1's wellbeing; Fear of Negative Evaluation: persisting through distress due to a fear of being negatively evaluated by others should they quit) and PTSD symptom severity and symptom cluster severity (i.e., intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood [NACM], arousal and reactivity) among firefighters. METHOD: Participants included 282 trauma-exposed firefighters (91.8% male, Mage = 40.4, SD = 9.6). Covariates included years in the fire service, trauma load (i.e., number of trauma exposure types), and negative affect. RESULTS: Results indicated that Capacity for Harm was a significant incremental correlate of total PTSD symptom severity (R = .045, p = .004), NACM symptoms (R = .061, p < .001), and arousal/reactivity symptoms (R = .047, p = .005). Fear of Negative Evaluation was not significantly related to any criterion variables. CONCLUSION: Further work examining DO-PTSD relations is necessary to inform intervention and policy for the fire service. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

published proceedings

  • Psychol Trauma

author list (cited authors)

  • Zegel, M., Kabel, K. E., Lebeaut, A., & Vujanovic, A. A.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Zegel, Maya||Kabel, Katherine E||Lebeaut, Antoine||Vujanovic, Anka A

publication date

  • September 2023