Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Theodicy and Spiritual Distress among Veterans Managing Posttraumatic Stress

Research on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans has increasingly converged on the conclusion that several types of spiritual distress (guilt, shame, loss of meaning and purpose, disruption in relationship with a higher power, and moral distress) are related to mental health outcomes in cross-sectional, longitudinal, and cross-lag studies. While theorists have suggested that theological and cognitive explanations for evil (i.e., theodicy) may play a role in this relationship, no studies have examined the relationships between theodicy, spiritual distress, and PTSD in veterans. In this study of 214 veterans seeking spiritually integrated care for PTSD and moral injury, retribution theodicy (i.e., a belief that evil is punishment for sins in a just world) emerged as a statistically significant predictor of spiritual distress after controlling for symptoms of PTSD and depression. Implications for further research in PTSD and moral injury are discussed.