Metacognitive and metamemory beliefs in the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder

Can metacognition increase trauma sufferers’ risk for developing and maintaining posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? We assessed the role of a range of cognitive and metacognitive belief domains—including metamemory—on PTSD symptoms. Adult participants reported their existing meta/cognitions and lifetime exposure to trauma, then 12 weeks later, they reported meta/cognitions and PTSD symptoms in relation to new trauma exposure since the initial assessment. Participants with more PTSD symptoms held more problematic metacognitions than participants with fewer distress symptoms. Moreover, people who endorsed maladaptive metacognitions before trauma exposure were more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD after exposure. Metacognition predicted the maintenance of elevated PTSD symptoms over the 12-week delay. Our findings support the metacognitive model of PTSD and highlight the importance of metamemory, an understudied factor in PTSD research.