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Problematic anger is frequently reported by soldiers who have deployed to combat zones. However, evidence is lacking with respect to how anger changes over a deployment cycle, and which factors prospectively influence change in anger among combat-deployed soldiers.
Reports of problematic anger were obtained from 7298 US Army soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. A series of mixed-effects growth models estimated linear trajectories of anger over a period of 1–2 months before deployment to 9 months post-deployment, and evaluated the effects of pre-deployment factors (prior deployments and perceived resilience) on average levels and growth of problematic anger.
A model with random intercepts and slopes provided the best fit, indicating heterogeneity in soldiers' levels and trajectories of anger. First-time deployers reported the lowest anger overall, but the most growth in anger over time. Soldiers with multiple prior deployments displayed the highest anger overall, which remained relatively stable over time. Higher pre-deployment resilience was associated with lower reports of anger, but its protective effect diminished over time. First- and second-time deployers reporting low resilience displayed different anger trajectories (stable v. decreasing, respectively).
Change in anger from pre- to post-deployment varies based on pre-deployment factors. The observed differences in anger trajectories suggest that efforts to detect and reduce problematic anger should be tailored for first-time v. repeat deployers. Ongoing screening is needed even for soldiers reporting high resilience before deployment, as the protective effect of pre-deployment resilience on anger erodes over time.
Definition of disorder subtypes may facilitate precision treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We aimed to identify PTSD subtypes and evaluate their associations with genetic risk factors, types of stress exposures, comorbidity, and course of PTSD.
Data came from a prospective study of three U.S. Army Brigade Combat Teams that deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. Soldiers with probable PTSD (PTSD Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition ≥31) at three months postdeployment comprised the sample (N = 423) for latent profile analysis using Gaussian mixture modeling and PTSD symptom ratings as indicators. PTSD profiles were compared on polygenic risk scores (derived from external genomewide association study summary statistics), experiences during deployment, comorbidity at three months postdeployment, and persistence of PTSD at nine months postdeployment.
Latent profile analysis revealed profiles characterized by prominent intrusions, avoidance, and hyperarousal (threat-reactivity profile; n = 129), anhedonia and negative affect (dysphoric profile; n = 195), and high levels of all PTSD symptoms (high-symptom profile; n = 99). The threat-reactivity profile had the most combat exposure and the least comorbidity. The dysphoric profile had the highest polygenic risk for major depression, and more personal life stress and co-occurring major depression than the threat-reactivity profile. The high-symptom profile had the highest rates of concurrent mental disorders and persistence of PTSD.
Genetic and trauma-related factors likely contribute to PTSD heterogeneity, which can be parsed into subtypes that differ in symptom expression, comorbidity, and course. Future studies should evaluate whether PTSD typology modifies treatment response and should clarify distinctions between the dysphoric profile and depressive disorders.
Unit cohesion may protect service member mental health by mitigating effects of combat exposure; however, questions remain about the origins of potential stress-buffering effects. We examined buffering effects associated with two forms of unit cohesion (peer-oriented horizontal cohesion and subordinate-leader vertical cohesion) defined as either individual-level or aggregated unit-level variables.
Longitudinal survey data from US Army soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 were analyzed using mixed-effects regression. Models evaluated individual- and unit-level interaction effects of combat exposure and cohesion during deployment on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicidal ideation reported at 3 months post-deployment (model n's = 6684 to 6826). Given the small effective sample size (k = 89), the significance of unit-level interactions was evaluated at a 90% confidence level.
At the individual-level, buffering effects of horizontal cohesion were found for PTSD symptoms [B = −0.11, 95% CI (−0.18 to −0.04), p < 0.01] and depressive symptoms [B = −0.06, 95% CI (−0.10 to −0.01), p < 0.05]; while a buffering effect of vertical cohesion was observed for PTSD symptoms only [B = −0.03, 95% CI (−0.06 to −0.0001), p < 0.05]. At the unit-level, buffering effects of horizontal (but not vertical) cohesion were observed for PTSD symptoms [B = −0.91, 90% CI (−1.70 to −0.11), p = 0.06], depressive symptoms [B = −0.83, 90% CI (−1.24 to −0.41), p < 0.01], and suicidal ideation [B = −0.32, 90% CI (−0.62 to −0.01), p = 0.08].
Policies and interventions that enhance horizontal cohesion may protect combat-exposed units against post-deployment mental health problems. Efforts to support individual soldiers who report low levels of horizontal or vertical cohesion may also yield mental health benefits.
Whereas genetic susceptibility increases the risk for major depressive disorder (MDD), non-genetic protective factors may mitigate this risk. In a large-scale prospective study of US Army soldiers, we examined whether trait resilience and/or unit cohesion could protect against the onset of MDD following combat deployment, even in soldiers at high polygenic risk.
Data were analyzed from 3079 soldiers of European ancestry assessed before and after their deployment to Afghanistan. Incident MDD was defined as no MDD episode at pre-deployment, followed by a MDD episode following deployment. Polygenic risk scores were constructed from a large-scale genome-wide association study of major depression. We first examined the main effects of the MDD PRS and each protective factor on incident MDD. We then tested the effects of each protective factor on incident MDD across strata of polygenic risk.
Polygenic risk showed a dose–response relationship to depression, such that soldiers at high polygenic risk had greatest odds for incident MDD. Both unit cohesion and trait resilience were prospectively associated with reduced risk for incident MDD. Notably, the protective effect of unit cohesion persisted even in soldiers at highest polygenic risk.
Polygenic risk was associated with new-onset MDD in deployed soldiers. However, unit cohesion – an index of perceived support and morale – was protective against incident MDD even among those at highest genetic risk, and may represent a potent target for promoting resilience in vulnerable soldiers. Findings illustrate the value of combining genomic and environmental data in a prospective design to identify robust protective factors for mental health.
Investigations of drinking behavior across military deployment cycles are scarce, and few prospective studies have examined risk factors for post-deployment alcohol misuse.
Prevalence of alcohol misuse was estimated among 4645 US Army soldiers who participated in a longitudinal survey. Assessment occurred 1–2 months before soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 (T0), upon their return to the USA (T1), 3 months later (T2), and 9 months later (T3). Weights-adjusted logistic regression was used to evaluate associations of hypothesized risk factors with post-deployment incidence and persistence of heavy drinking (HD) (consuming 5 + alcoholic drinks at least 1–2×/week) and alcohol or substance use disorder (AUD/SUD).
Prevalence of past-month HD at T0, T2, and T3 was 23.3% (s.e. = 0.7%), 26.1% (s.e. = 0.8%), and 22.3% (s.e. = 0.7%); corresponding estimates for any binge drinking (BD) were 52.5% (s.e. = 1.0%), 52.5% (s.e. = 1.0%), and 41.3% (s.e. = 0.9%). Greater personal life stress during deployment (e.g., relationship, family, or financial problems) – but not combat stress – was associated with new onset of HD at T2 [per standard score increase: adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.20, 95% CI 1.06–1.35, p = 0.003]; incidence of AUD/SUD at T2 (AOR = 1.54, 95% CI 1.25–1.89, p < 0.0005); and persistence of AUD/SUD at T2 and T3 (AOR = 1.30, 95% CI 1.08–1.56, p = 0.005). Any BD pre-deployment was associated with post-deployment onset of HD (AOR = 3.21, 95% CI 2.57–4.02, p < 0.0005) and AUD/SUD (AOR = 1.85, 95% CI 1.27–2.70, p = 0.001).
Alcohol misuse is common during the months preceding and following deployment. Timely intervention aimed at alleviating/managing personal stressors or curbing risky drinking might reduce risk of alcohol-related problems post-deployment.
Some data suggest that older adults with anxiety disorders do not respond as well to treatment as do younger adults.
We examined age differences in outcomes from the Coordinated Anxiety Learning and Management (CALM) study, an effectiveness trial comparing usual care to a computer-assisted collaborative care intervention for primary care patients with panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and/or social anxiety disorder. This is the first study to examine the efficacy of a collaborative care intervention in a sample that included both younger and older adults with anxiety disorders. We hypothesised that older adults would show a poorer response to the intervention than younger adults.
We examined findings for the overall sample, as well as within each diagnostic category (clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT00347269).
The CALM intervention was more effective than usual care among younger adults overall and for those with generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Among older adults, the intervention was effective overall and for those with social anxiety disorder and PTSD but not for those with panic disorder or generalised anxiety disorder. The effects of the intervention also appeared to erode by the 18-month follow-up, and there were no significant effects on remission among the older adults.
These results are consistent with the findings of other investigators suggesting that medications and psychotherapy for anxiety disorders may not be as effective for older individuals as they are for younger people.
The evidence base for treatments of social phobia is one of the most rapidly expanding ones in psychiatry. The recent interest in the subject arose primarily from epidemiological studies that showed large numbers of untreated people severely handicapped by shyness who were not seeking help. Despite strong evidence of effective treatments with both psychological (CBT) and psychopharmacological interventions, only about half of the people with this disorder seek treatment and usually only after 15–20 years of being symptomatic. Pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions are equally effective, but pharmacological interventions appear to act more quickly while CBT is longer lasting. Nonetheless, response rates remain in the 50%–70% range, and more studies and research are needed to find ways to help those who do not respond to our current treatments.
Social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder) is a common and often disabling mental disorder. Individuals with social phobia strongly fear social or performance situations in which they might be exposed to unfamiliar people or be scrutinized by others (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). When confronted with feared situations, individuals with social phobia experience symptoms of anxiety that may reach the level of a panic attack. The discomfort provoked by social encounters or performance situations leads many people with the disorder to avoid interactions with others. Avoidance can produce a marked effect on psychosocial functioning, causing disruptions in occupational, academic, interpersonal, and other daily activities.
Social phobia can present in many different ways and at varying levels of severity.
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