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It has been suggested that countries with more resources and better healthcare have populations with a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Norway is a high-income country with good public healthcare.
To examine lifetime trauma exposure and the point prevalence of PTSD in the general Norwegian population.
A survey was administered to a national probability sample of 5500 adults (aged ≥18 years). Of 4961 eligible individuals, 1792 responded (36%). Responders and non-responders did not differ significantly in age, gender or urban versus rural residence. Trauma exposure was measured using the Life Events Checklist for the DSM-5. PTSD was measured with the PTSD Checklist for the DSM-5. We used the DSM-5 diagnostic guidelines to categorise participants as fulfilling the PTSD symptom criteria or not.
At least one serious lifetime event was reported by 85% of men and 86% of women. The most common event categories were transportation accident and life-threatening illness or injury. The point prevalence of PTSD was 3.8% for men and 8.5% for women. The most common events causing PTSD were sexual and physical assaults, life-threatening illness or injury, and sudden violent deaths. Risk of PTSD increased proportionally with the number of event categories experienced.
High estimates of serious life events and correspondingly high rates of PTSD in the Norwegian population support the paradox that countries with more resources and better healthcare have higher risk of PTSD. Possible explanations are high expectations for a risk-free life and high attention to potential harmful mental health effects of serious life events.
Despite extensive research, symptom structure of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is highly debated. The network approach to psychopathology offers a novel method for understanding and conceptualizing PTSD. However, extant studies have mainly used small samples and self-report measures among sub-clinical populations, while also overlooking co-morbid depressive symptoms.
PTSD symptom network topology was estimated in a sample of 1489 treatment-seeking veteran patients based on a clinician-rated PTSD measure. Next, clinician-rated depressive symptoms were incorporated into the network to assess their influence on PTSD network structure. The PTSD-symptom network was then contrasted with the network of 306 trauma-exposed (TE) treatment-seeking patients not meeting full criteria for PTSD to assess corresponding network differences. Finally, a directed acyclic graph (DAG) was computed to estimate potential directionality among symptoms, including depressive symptoms and daily functioning.
The PTSD symptom network evidenced robust reliability. Flashbacks and getting emotionally upset by trauma reminders emerged as the most central nodes in the PTSD network, regardless of the inclusion of depressive symptoms. Distinct clustering emerged for PTSD and depressive symptoms within the comorbidity network. DAG analysis suggested a key triggering role for re-experiencing symptoms. Network topology in the PTSD sample was significantly distinct from that of the TE sample.
Flashbacks and psychological reactions to trauma reminders, along with their strong connections to other re-experiencing symptoms, have a pivotal role in the clinical presentation of combat-related PTSD among veterans. Depressive and posttraumatic symptoms constitute two separate diagnostic entities, but with meaningful between-disorder connections, suggesting two mutually-influential systems.
Refugees are confronted with the task of adapting to the long-term erosion of psychosocial systems and institutions that in stable societies support psychological well-being and mental health. We provide an overview of the theoretical principles and practical steps taken to develop a novel psychotherapeutic approach, Integrative Adapt Therapy (IAT), which aims to assist refugees to adapt to these changes. This paper offers the background informing ongoing trials of IAT amongst refugees from Myanmar.
A systematic process was followed in formulating the therapy and devising a treatment manual consistent with the principles of the Adaptation and Development After Persecution and Trauma (ADAPT) model. The process of development and refinement was based on qualitative research amongst 70 refugees (ten from West Papua and 60 Rohingya from Myanmar). The therapeutic process was then piloted by trained interventionists amongst a purposively selected sample of 20 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.
The final formulation of IAT represented an integration of the principles of the ADAPT model and evidence-based techniques of modern therapies in the field, including a transdiagnostic approach and the selective use of cognitive behavioural treatment elements such as problem-solving and emotional regulation techniques. The steps outlined in refining the manual are outlined in relation to work amongst West Papuan refugees, and the process of cultural and contextual modifications described during early piloting with Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.
IAT integrates universal principles of the ADAPT model with the particularities of the culture, history of conflict and living context of each refugee community; this synthesis of knowledge forms the basis for participants gaining insights into their personal patterns of psychosocial adaptation to the refugee experience. Participants then apply evidence-based techniques to improve their capacity to adapt to the serial psychosocial changes they have encountered in their lives as refugees. The overarching goal of IAT is to provide refugees with a coherent framework that assists in making sense of their experiences and their emotional and interpersonal reactions to the challenges they confront within the family and community context. As such, the principles of a general model (ADAPT) are used as a springboard for making concrete, manageable and meaningful life changes at the individual level, a potentially novel approach for psychosocial interventions in the field.
The World Health Organization's proposals in ICD-11, released for comment by member states in 2018, introduce for the first time in a major diagnostic system a distinction between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). This article sets the new diagnosis of CPTSD within the context of previous similar formulations, describes its definition and requirements, and reviews the evidence concerning its epidemiology, differential diagnosis, assessment and treatment.
After reading this article you will be able to:
•understand the relationship between CPTSD and precipitating events
•distinguish CPTSD from PTSD and borderline personality disorder
•recognise current issues and practices in psychological treatment.
DECLARATION OF INTEREST
C.B. was an unpaid member of the Working Group on Classification of Stress-Related Disorders for the World Health Organization's International Advisory Group for the Revision of ICD-10 Mental and Behavioural Disorders. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official policies or positions of the International Advisory Group or the WHO.
Despite recent worldwide migratory movements, there are only a few studies available that report robust epidemiological data on the mental health in recent refugee populations. In the present study, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and somatisation were assessed using an epidemiological approach in refugees who have recently arrived in Germany from different countries.
The study was conducted in a reception facility for asylum-seekers in Leipzig, Germany. A total of 1316 adult individuals arrived at the facility during the survey period (May 2017–June 2018), 569 of whom took part in the study (N = 67 pilot study and N = 502 study sample; response rate 43.2%). The questionnaire (11 different languages) included sociodemographic and flight-related questions as well as standardised instruments for assessing PTSD (PCL-5), depression (PHQ-9) and somatisation (SSS-8). Unweighted and weighted prevalence rates of PTSD, depression and somatisation were presented stratified by sex and age groups.
According to established cut-off scores, 49.7% of the respondents screened positive for at least one of the mental disorders investigated, with 31% suffering from somatisation, 21.7% from depression and 34.9% from PTSD; prevalence rates of major depression, other depressive syndromes and PTSD were calculated according to the DSM-5, which indicated rates of 10.3, 17.6 and 28.2%, respectively.
The findings underline the dramatic mental health burden present among refugees and provide important information for health care planning. They also provide important information for health care systems and political authorities in receiving countries and strongly indicate the necessity of establishing early psychosocial support for refugees suffering from psychological distress.
Background: Although exposure-based therapy is a well-established, effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), some practitioners report reluctance to implement it due to concerns that it may exacerbate symptoms of PTSD and commonly comorbid disorders, such as substance use disorders (SUD).
Aim: This study compared the exacerbation of psychological symptoms among participants with comorbid PTSD and SUD who received either SUD treatment alone or SUD treatment integrated with exposure therapy for PTSD.
Method: Participants (N = 71) were treatment-seeking, military Veterans with comorbid PTSD and SUD who were randomized to 12 individual sessions of either (1) an integrated, exposure-based treatment (Concurrent Treatment of PTSD and Substance Use Disorders using Prolonged Exposure; COPE); or (2) a non-exposure-based, SUD-only treatment (Relapse Prevention; RP). We examined between-group differences in the frequency of statistically reliable exacerbations of PTSD, SUD and depression symptoms experienced during treatment.
Results: At each of the 12 sessions, symptom exacerbation was minimal and generally equally likely in either treatment group. However, an analysis of treatment completers suggests that RP participants experienced slightly more exacerbations of PTSD symptoms during the course of treatment.
Conclusions: This study is the first to investigate symptom exacerbation throughout trauma-focused exposure therapy for individuals with comorbid PTSD and SUD. Results add to a growing literature which suggests that trauma-focused, exposure-based therapy does not increase the risk of symptom exacerbation relative to non-exposure-based therapy.
This study examined the structure of the self-concept in a sample of sexual trauma survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to healthy controls using a self-descriptive card-sorting task. We explored whether individuals with PTSD possess a highly affectively-compartmentalized self-structure, whereby positive and negative self-attributes are sectioned off into separate components of self-concept (e.g. self as an employee, lover, mother). We also examined redundancy (i.e. overlap) of positive and negative self-attributes across the different components of self-concept.
Participants generated a set of self-aspects that reflected their own life (e.g. ‘self at work’). They were then asked to describe their self-aspects using list of positive or negative attributes.
Results revealed that, relative to the control group, the PTSD group used a greater proportion of negative attributes and had a more compartmentalized self-structure. However, there were no significant differences between the PTSD and control groups in positive or negative redundancy. Sensitivity analyses demonstrated that the key findings were not accounted for by comorbid diagnosis of depression.
Findings indicated that the self-structure is organized differently in those with PTSD, relative to those with depression or good mental health.
This article describes a clinical protocol for supporting those presenting with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative symptoms, particularly dissociative flashbacks, based on a cross-culturally applicable model. The protocol is discussed from the perspective of working with a refugee and asylum seeker population, although many of the principles will be applicable to clients from any background presenting with these dissociative symptoms. The protocol addresses the assessment and formulation of a client’s dissociative symptoms. It includes guidance on sharing psycho-education with clients regarding the evolutionary function of dissociation and developing practical strategies to monitor and manage dissociative symptoms. The strengths and limitations of this protocol are also discussed.
Key learning aims
After reading this article people will:
(1)Be able to understand a cross-culturally applicable model of dissociation and how it applies to clinical practice when working with clients presenting with dissociative symptoms, particularly dissociative flashbacks, in the context of a diagnosis of PTSD.
(2)Be able to assess and formulate dissociative symptoms as part of an overall PTSD formulation.
(3)Be able to develop practical strategies for assisting clients in monitoring and managing their dissociative symptoms.
(4)Be familiar with adaptations for using this approach with refugee and asylum seeker populations.
Death of patients by suicide can have powerful effects on psychiatrists. We report the findings of a survey completed by 174 psychiatrists on the effects of patient suicide on their emotional well-being and clinical practice, and the support and resources they felt would be helpful.
Results and clinical implications
The death of a patient by suicide usually had a major effect on respondents. Clinical practice was often negatively affected, and over a quarter of respondents considered a change of career path as a result. There were some gender differences in responses, with women reporting more sense of responsibility for the deaths and a greater effect on their clinical confidence. Desired support included a senior suicide lead clinician, support during formal post-suicide processes, opportunity for reflection on practice, information about resources to support families and help communicating with families and friends of the deceased.
Declaration of interest
K.L. is Nurse Consultant for Suicide Prevention at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. K.H. is a member of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England Advisory Group. G.W. offers independent workshops on working with suicidal patients.
Evidence-based treatment and age-specific services are required to address the needs of trauma-affected older populations. Narrative exposure therapy (NET) may present an appropriate treatment approach for this population since it provides prolonged exposure in a lifespan perspective. As yet, however, no trial on this intervention has been conducted with older adults from Western Europe.
Examining the efficacy of NET in a sample of older adults.
Out-patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), aged 55 years and over, were randomly assigned to either 11 sessions of NET (n = 18) or 11 sessions of present-centred therapy (PCT) (n = 15) and assessed on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) pre-treatment, post-treatment and at follow-up. Total scores as well as symptom scores (re-experience, avoidance and hyperarousal) were evaluated.
Using a piecewise mixed-effects growth model, at post-treatment a medium between-treatment effect size for CAPS total score (Cohen's d = 0.44) was found, favouring PCT. At follow-up, however, the between-treatment differences were non-significant. Drop-out rates were low (NET 6.7%, PCT 14.3%) and no participant dropped out of the study because of increased distress.
Both NET and PCT appear to be safe and efficacious treatments with older adults: PCT is non-intrusive and NET allows for imaginal exposure in a lifespan perspective. By selectively providing these approaches in clinical practice, patient matching can be optimised.
Combat exposure is associated with elevated risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite considerable research on PTSD symptom clustering, it remains unknown how symptoms of PTSD re-organize following combat. Network analysis provides a powerful tool to examine such changes.
A network analysis approach was taken to examine how symptom networks change from pre- to post-combat using longitudinal prospective data from a cohort of infantry male soldiers (Mage = 18.8 years). PTSD symptoms measured using the PTSD Checklist (PCL) were assessed after 6 months of combat training but before deployment and again after 6 months of combat (Ns = 910 and 725 at pre-deployment and post-combat, respectively)
Stronger connectivity between PTSD symptoms was observed post-combat relative to pre-deployment (global strength values of the networks were 7.54 pre v. 7.92 post; S = .38, p < 0.05). Both the re-experiencing symptoms cluster (1.92 v. 2.12; S = .20, p < 0.03) and the avoidance symptoms cluster (2.61 v. 2.96; S = .35, p < 0.005) became more strongly inter-correlated post-combat. Centrality estimation analyses revealed that psychological reaction to triggers was central and linked the intrusion and avoidance sub-clusters at post-combat. The strength of associations between the arousal and reactivity symptoms cluster remained stable over time (1.85 v. 1.83; S = .02, p = .92).
Following combat, PTSD symptoms and particularly the re-experiencing and avoidance clusters become more strongly inter-correlated, indicating high centrality of trigger-reactivity symptoms.
Having returned from a period of volunteering with a healthcare charity working with the refugee camp population of Lesbos in Greece, a junior doctor reflects on the common presentations he saw and the current state of mental healthcare for these patients. The placement of already-traumatised people in an overcrowded and under-resourced camp environment creates a perfect storm for the emergence of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. With extremely limited psychiatric care in place, he considers the simple interventions he could use to help his patients with their distressing symptoms. This prompts exploration of the importance of giving time to listen as well as encouraging small but significant lifestyle changes. After exploring the ethics of psychiatric diagnosis in this setting, the author concludes that while we must acknowledge the political origins of some of the symptomatology in this population, we must continue to strive to treat psychiatric illness with all the appropriate interventions available to us in order to help those in this patient group recover and move forward.
More than 68 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced and one-third of these are refugees. This article offers an overview of the current literature and reviews the epidemiology and evidence-based psychological and pharmacological management of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disturbance and pain in refugees and asylum seekers. It also considers the relationship between sleep disturbance and PTSD and explores concepts of pain in relation to physical and psychological trauma and distress. During diagnosis, clinicians must be aware of ethnic variation in the somatic expression of distress. Treatments for PTSD, pain and sleep disturbance among refugees and asylum seekers are essentially the same as those used in the general population, but treatment strategies must allow for cultural and contextual factors, including language barriers, loss of freedom and threat of repatriation.
After reading this article you will be able to:
•recognise the challenges faced by the large number of refugees worldwide
•understand the relationship between PTSD, sleep disturbance and pain in refugees
•broadly understand the evidence for psychological and pharmacological therapy for treating PTSD, sleep disturbance and pain in refugees.
Looking at the physical damage caused by the Syrian war, one can begin to imagine the scale of the psychological toll that eight years of crisis have taken on the Syrian people. In a country where mental health was still considered an emerging field before the war, Syrians are working to address and manage the mental health and psychological effects of war. Despite this disastrous situation, there appears to have been significant progress in the field of mental health during the crisis. This article explores the mental health situation in Syria prior to 2011, the effects of the crisis on Syrians, and how these have been managed in recent years. It concludes by citing some examples of progress that have been made in mental health care in Syria and discussing some of the challenges that remain to be addressed.
Little is known about the potential health impact of police encounters despite a ubiquitous police presence in many disadvantaged urban environments. In this paper, we assess whether persistent or aggressive interactions with the police are associated with poor mental health outcomes in a sample of primarily low-income communities of colour in Chicago.
Between March 2015 and September 2016, we surveyed 1543 adults in ten diverse Chicago communities using a multistage probability design. The survey had over 350 questions on health and social factors, including police exposure and mental health status. We use sex-stratified logistic regression to examine associations between persistent police exposure (defined as a high number of lifetime police stops) or aggressive police exposure (defined as threat or use of police force during the respondent's most recent police stop) and the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depressive symptoms.
Men reporting a high number of lifetime police stops have three times greater odds of current PTSD symptoms compared with men who did not report high lifetime police stops (OR 3.1, 95% CI 1.3–7.6), after adjusting for respondent age, race/ethnicity, education, history of homelessness, prior diagnosis of PTSD and neighbourhood violent crime rate. Women reporting a high number of lifetime police stops have two times greater odds of current PTSD symptoms, although the results are not statistically significant after adjustment (OR 2.0, 95% CI 0.9–4.2). Neither persistent nor aggressive police exposure is significantly associated with current depressive symptoms in our sample.
Our findings support existing preliminary evidence of an association between high lifetime police stops and PTSD symptoms. If future research can confirm as causal, these results have considerable public health implications given the frequent interaction between police and residents in disadvantaged communities in large urban areas.
Adverse pregnancy outcomes including prematurity and low birth weight (LBW) have been associated with life-long chronic disease risk for the infant. Stress during pregnancy increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Many studies have reported the incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes in Indigenous populations and a smaller number of studies have measured rates of stress and depression in these populations. This study sought to examine the potential association between stress during pregnancy and the rate of adverse pregnancy outcomes in Australian Indigenous women residing in rural and remote communities in New South Wales. This study found a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy than the general population. There was also a higher incidence of prematurity and LBW deliveries. Unfortunately, missing post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptomatology data impeded the examination of associations of interest. This was largely due to the highly sensitive nature of the issues under investigation, and the need to ensure adequate levels of trust between Indigenous women and research staff before disclosure and recording of sensitive research data. We were unable to demonstrate a significant association between the level of stress and the incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes at this stage. We recommend this longitudinal study continue until complete data sets are available. Future research in this area should ensure prioritization of building trust in participants and overestimating sample size to ensure no undue pressure is placed upon an already stressed participant.
The 2004 tsunami, the civil conflict until 2009 and the youth insurrection in the late 1980s in Sri Lanka resulted in many persons being classified as ‘missing’ as they disappeared and were unaccounted for. Our aim was to compare the prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) and prolonged grief disorder (PGD) in families of disappeared individuals, who eventually received the mortal remains and those who did not.
An ethically approved cross sectional study was conducted in a purposively selected sample after informed consent. Information on the circumstances of the family member going missing was gathered. Culturally adapted versions of the General Health Questionnaire and the Beck Depression Scale were administered. Those who screened positive were assessed by a psychiatrist on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 criteria to arrive at a diagnosis.
Of 391 cases of disappearances studied, MDD (17.5% v. 6%) and PGD (22% v. 7%) were significantly higher in those who did not eventually receive the mortal remains of the disappeared person. Among those who did not receive the mortal remains, being unsure whether the disappeared person was dead or alive was highly predictive of MDD and PGD. Mothers and wives, older family members and those with a family history of mental illness were more vulnerable.
Family members of missing individuals unsure whether their loved one was alive or dead have higher psychological morbidity in the form of MDD and PGD.
Traumatic memories of war can result in mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by intrusive trauma memories and severe stress responses with devastating personal and societal consequences. Current treatments teach patients to regulate trauma memories, but many experience a return of symptoms even after initially successful treatment. Neuroscience is discovering ways to permanently modify trauma memories and prevent the return of symptoms. Such memory modification techniques (MMTs) have great clinical potential but also important ethical, legal and social implications. In this article, the authors describe PTSD, the role of memory in PTSD, its effects on the brain, and the limitations of current treatment methods. Then, the state of the art of the neuroscience of MMTs is presented. Within this realistic scientific framework the authors will discuss the ethical, legal and social implications of MMTs for the treatment of war-induced PTSD, especially in a military population. Three major sets of issues will be focused on: safety and social justice concerns, concerns about threats to authenticity and identity, and the possible legal and moral duties to retain certain memories. Finally, the article concludes that within scientific reality, concerns are limited and do not outweigh the potential benefits of developing treatments for patients.
Abnormal thyroid function is prevalent among women and has been linked to increased risk of chronic disease. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been linked to thyroid dysfunction in some studies; however, the results have been inconsistent. Thus, we evaluated trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms in relation to incident thyroid dysfunction in a large longitudinal cohort of civilian women.
We used data from 45 992 women from the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II, a longitudinal US cohort study that began in 1989. In 2008, history of trauma and PTSD were assessed with the Short Screening Scale for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, PTSD, and incident thyroid dysfunction was determined by participants’ self-report in biennial questionnaires of physician-diagnosed hypothyroidism and Graves’ hyperthyroidism. The study period was from 1989 to 2013. Proportional hazard models were used to estimate multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for incident hypothyroidism and Graves’ hyperthyroidism.
In multivariable-adjusted models, we found significant associations for PTSD only with hypothyroidism [p-trend <0.001; trauma with no PTSD symptoms, 1.08 (95% CI 1.02–1.15); 1–3 PTSD symptoms, 1.12 (95% CI 1.04–1.21); 4–5 PTSD symptoms, 1.23 (95% CI 1.13–1.34); and 6–7 PTSD symptoms, 1.26 (95% CI 1.14–1.40)]. PTSD was not associated with risk of Graves’ hyperthyroidism (p-trend = 0.34). Associations were similar in sensitivity analyses restricted to outcomes with onset after 2008, when PTSD was assessed.
PTSD was associated with higher risk of hypothyroidism in a dose-dependent fashion. Highlighted awareness for thyroid dysfunction may be especially important in women with PTSD.