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Childhood maltreatment is associated with wide-ranging psychopathology at all stages of life. In the current study, we investigated whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) severity mediated the association between childhood maltreatment and internalizing and externalizing disorders among 262 South African trauma-exposed adolescents (aged 12–18 years). Childhood maltreatment and PTSD symptom severity were assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and the Child PTSD Checklist, respectively. Psychiatric disorders were assessed utilizing the Kiddie-Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia-Present and Lifetime version and were grouped into internalizing or externalizing disorders. Hierarchal logistic regression was used to assess the association of childhood maltreatment subtype with internalizing and externalizing disorders, controlling for age and gender, with PTSD symptom severity added to the final model. We found that sexual abuse was significantly associated with internalizing disorders, although this effect was no longer significant when PTSD was added to the model demonstrating that PTSD mediated the association between sexual abuse and internalizing disorders. Physical abuse, but not PTSD, was associated with externalizing disorders. Physical abuse, emotional neglect, and PTSD were associated with comorbid internalizing and externalizing disorders. These findings have implications for intervention and prevention strategies targeted at trauma-exposed adolescents with a history of childhood maltreatment.
Trauma exposure is prevalent globally and is a defining event for the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), characterised by intrusive thoughts, avoidance behaviours, hypervigilance and negative alterations in cognition and mood. Exposure to trauma elicits a range of physiological responses which can interact with environmental factors to confer relative risk or resilience for PTSD. This systematic review summarises the findings of longitudinal studies examining biological correlates predictive of PTSD symptomology. Databases (Pubmed, Scopus and Web of Science) were systematically searched using relevant keywords for studies published between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2022. English language studies were included if they were original research manuscripts or meta-analyses of cohort investigations that assessed longitudinal relationships between one or more molecular-level measures and either PTSD status or symptoms. Eighteen of the 1,042 records identified were included. Studies primarily included military veterans/personnel, individuals admitted to hospitals after acute traumatic injury, and women exposed to interpersonal violence or rape. Genomic, inflammation and endocrine measures were the most commonly assessed molecular markers and highlighted processes related to inflammation, stress responding, and learning and memory. Quality assessments were done using the Systematic Appraisal of Quality in Observational Research, and the majority of studies were rated as being of high quality, with the remainder of moderate quality. Studies were predominantly conducted in upper-income countries. Those performed in low- and middle-income countries were not broadly representative in terms of demographic, trauma type and geographic profiles, with three out of the four studies conducted assessing only female participants, rape exposure and South Africa, respectively. They also did not generate multimodal data or use machine learning or multilevel modelling, potentially reflecting greater resource limitations in LMICs. Research examining molecular contributions to PTSD does not adequately reflect the global burden of the disorder.
We investigated the influence of oral cannabidiol (CBD) on vacuous chewing movements (VCM) and oxidative stress parameters induced by short- and long-term administration of haloperidol in a rat model of tardive dyskinesia (TD).
Haloperidol was administered either sub-chronically via the intraperitoneal (IP) route or chronically via the intramuscular (IM) route to six experimental groups only or in combination with CBD. VCM and oxidative stress parameters were assessed at different time points after the last dose of medication.
Oral CBD (5 mg/kg) attenuated the VCM produced by sub-chronic administration of haloperidol (5 mg/kg) but had minimal effects on the VCM produced by chronic administration of haloperidol (50 mg/kg). In both sub-chronic and chronic haloperidol groups, there were significant changes in brain antioxidant parameters compared with CBD only and the control groups. The sub-chronic haloperidol-only group had lower glutathione activity compared with sub-chronic haloperidol before CBD and the control groups; also, superoxide dismutase, catalase, and 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl activities were increased in the sub-chronic (IP) haloperidol only group compared with the CBD only and control groups. Nitric oxide activity was increased in sub-chronic haloperidol-only group compared to the other groups; however, the chronic haloperidol group had increased malondialdehyde activity compared to the other groups.
Our findings indicate that CBD ameliorated VCM in the sub-chronic haloperidol group before CBD, but marginally in the chronic haloperidol group before CBD. There was increased antioxidant activity in the sub-chronic group compared to the chronic group.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and ensuing restrictions have negatively affected the mental health and well-being of the general population, and there is increasing evidence suggesting that lockdowns have led to a disruption of health services. In March 2020, South Africa introduced a lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, entailing the suspension of all non-essential activities and a complete ban of tobacco and alcohol sales. We studied the effect of the lockdown on mental health care utilisation rates in private-sector care in South Africa.
We conducted an interrupted time-series analysis using insurance claims from 1 January 2017 to 1 June 2020 of beneficiaries 18 years or older from a large private sector medical insurance scheme. We calculated weekly outpatient consultation and hospital admission rates for organic mental disorders, substance use disorders, serious mental disorders, depression, anxiety, other mental disorders, any mental disorder and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. We calculated adjusted odds ratios (OR) for the effect of the lockdown on weekly outpatient consultation and hospital admission rates and the weekly change in rates during the lockdown until 1 June 2020.
710 367 persons were followed up for a median of 153 weeks. Hospital admission rates (OR 0.38; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.33–0.44) and outpatient consultation rates (OR 0.74; 95% CI 0.63–0.87) for any mental disorder decreased substantially after the introduction of the lockdown and did not recover to pre-lockdown levels by 1 June 2020. Health care utilisation rates for alcohol withdrawal syndrome doubled after the introduction of the lockdown, but the statistical uncertainty around the estimates was large (OR 2.24; 95% CI 0.69–7.24).
Mental health care utilisation rates for inpatient and outpatient services decreased substantially after the introduction of the lockdown. Hospital admissions and outpatient consultations for alcohol withdrawal syndrome increased after the introduction of the lockdown, but statistical uncertainty precludes strong conclusions about a potential unintended effect of the alcohol sales ban. Governments should integrate strategies for ensuring access and continuity of essential mental health services during lockdowns in pandemic preparedness planning.
Higher levels of PTSD symptoms are present among trauma-exposed females v. males in adulthood; however, much less is known about the emergence of this sex difference during development.
In a multi-study sample of 7–18-year-olds (n = 3397), we examined the effect of sex and age on the severity of PTSD symptoms after a single incident trauma at 1 month (T1), and on symptom change after a natural recovery period of 3 (T2) and 6 months (T3). PTSD scores were harmonised across measurement types, and linear regressions were used to determine sex and age effects, adjusting for study level variance and trauma type.
A sex × age interaction was observed at T1 (p < 0.001) demonstrating that older age was associated with greater PTSD symptom severity in females (β = 0.008, p = 0.047), but less severe symptoms in males (β = −0.011, p = 0.014). The same pattern was observed at T2 and T3, with sex differences beginning to emerge by age 12 years. PTSD symptoms decreased naturally by ~25% at T2 with little further improvement by T3. Further, females showed a greater reduction in symptoms at T3 than males, although the same effect was not observed at T2.
Sex differences in PTSD symptoms become apparent during adolescence, due to opposing changes in susceptibility occurring in females and males with age. Understanding the factors contributing to these findings is likely to provide wider insight into sex-specific psychological vulnerability to trauma-related psychopathology.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telemedicine as a way to reduce COVID-19 infections was noted and consequently deregulated. However, the degree of telemedicine regulation varies from country to country, which may alter the widespread use of telemedicine. This study aimed to clarify the telepsychiatry regulations for each collaborating country/region before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We used snowball sampling within a global network of international telepsychiatry experts. Thirty collaborators from 17 different countries/regions responded to a questionnaire on barriers to the use and implementation of telepsychiatric care, including policy factors such as regulations and reimbursement at the end of 2019 and as of May 2020.
Thirteen of 17 regions reported a relaxation of regulations due to the pandemic; consequently, all regions surveyed stated that telepsychiatry was now possible within their public healthcare systems. In some regions, restrictions on prescription medications allowed via telepsychiatry were eased, but in 11 of the 17 regions, there were still restrictions on prescribing medications via telepsychiatry. Lower insurance reimbursement amounts for telepsychiatry consultations v. in-person consultations were reevaluated in four regions, and consequently, in 15 regions telepsychiatry services were reimbursed at the same rate (or higher) than in-person consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our results confirm that, due to COVID-19, the majority of countries surveyed are altering telemedicine regulations that had previously restricted the spread of telemedicine. These findings provide information that could guide future policy and regulatory decisions, which facilitate greater scale and spread of telepsychiatry globally.
Empirical evidence on the longer-term effectiveness of evidence-based treatments for adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in low-resource settings is needed. The aim of the study was to evaluate the maintenance of treatment gains achieved in a comparative study of effectiveness of prolonged exposure therapy for adolescents (PE-A) and supportive counselling (SC) in adolescents with PTSD up to 24-months post-treatment.
Sixty-three adolescents (13–18 years) with PTSD were randomly assigned to receive either of the interventions comprising 7–14 sessions of treatment provided by trained and supervised non-specialist health workers (NSHWs). The primary outcome measure was PTSD symptom severity, as independently assessed on the Child PTSD Symptom Scale, at pretreatment, post-treatment, and at 3-, 6-, 12- and 24-months post-treatment follow-up (FU) evaluations.
Participants in both the prolonged exposure and SC treatment groups attained a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms and maintained this reduction in PTSD symptoms at 12- and 24-month assessment. Participants receiving prolonged exposure experienced greater improvement on the PTSD symptom severity scale than those receiving SC at 12-months FU [difference in PE-A v. SC mean scores = 9.24, 95% CI (3.66–14.83), p < 0.001; g = 0.88] and at 24-months FU [difference in PE-A v. SC mean scores = 9.35, 95% CI (3.53–15.17), p = 0.002; g = 0.68].
Adolescents with PTSD continued to experience greater benefit from prolonged exposure treatment than SC provided by NSHWs in a community setting 12 and 24 months after completion of treatment.
Cross-sectional evidence suggests females in late adolescence exhibit higher rates of post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) than males and younger age groups. However, longitudinal evidence is limited, and underlying factors are not well understood. We investigated the emergence of sex differences in PTSS from childhood to adolescence in a large, longitudinal UK cohort, and tested whether these could be explained by overlap between PTSS and depressive symptoms, or onset of puberty.
Trauma exposure and PTSS were assessed at ages 8, 10, 13 (parent-report) and 15 (self-report) years in a sub-sample of 9966 children and adolescents from the ALSPAC cohort-study. Analyses of PTSS focused on those who reported potential trauma-exposure at each time-point (ranged from n = 654 at 15 years to n = 1231 at 10 years). Age at peak-height velocity (APHV) was used as an indicator of pubertal timing.
There was no evidence of sex differences in PTSS at ages 8 and 10, but females were more likely to show PTSS at ages 13 (OR 1.54, p = 0.002) and 15 (OR 2.04, p = .001), even once symptoms related to depression were excluded. We found little evidence that the emergence of sex differences was related to pubertal timing (as indexed by APHV).
Results indicate that females show higher levels of PTSS in adolescence but not during childhood. The emergence of this sex difference does not seem to be explained by overlap with depressive symptoms, while the influence of pubertal status requires further investigation.
Post-traumatic stress but also aggressive attitudes and behaviour can be found in adolescents living in a context of ongoing community and gang violence in the low-income urban areas of Cape Town, South Africa.
We investigated the long-term effects (15–20 months after therapy) of (a) Narrative Exposure Therapy for Forensic Offender Rehabilitation (FORNET) and (b) the cognitive behavioural intervention ‘Thinking for a Change’ (CBT) on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and aggression compared with a waiting list.
Fifty-four young males participated in the treatment trial, of which 17 completed the FORNET intervention, 11 the CBT intervention, and 26 were on a waiting list. The primary outcome was the change score for the Appetitive Aggression Scale; secondary outcomes were the PTSD Symptom Scale-Interview change scores, and the number of perpetrated violent event types.
The reduction in scores for PTSD that had been observed in FORNET completers at the first follow-up were still significant at the second long-term follow-up (Cohen’s d = 0.86). In this treatment arm (FORNET), the scores for appetitive aggression were also significantly reduced (Cohen’s d = 1.00). There were no significant changes observed for CBT or for the waiting list.
The study indicates that FORNET can successfully reduce post-traumatic stress as well as the attraction to violence even for individuals living under conditions of continuous traumatic stress.
Empirical evidence on the effectiveness of evidence-based treatments for adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in low-resource settings is needed.
To evaluate the comparative effectiveness of prolonged exposure and supportive counselling in adolescents with PTSD.
Sixty-three adolescents (13–18 years) with PTSD were randomly assigned to receive either of the interventions comprising 7–14 sessions of treatment (trial registration in the Pan African Clinical Trials Registry: PACTR201511001345372). The primary outcome measure was PTSD symptom severity, as independently assessed on the Child PTSD Symptom Scale at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and at 3- and 6-month follow-up.
Participants receiving prolonged exposure experienced greater improvement on the PTSD symptom severity scale than those receiving supportive counselling (between group differences at post-intervention, mean 12.49, 95% CI 6.82–18.17, P<0.001; d = 1.22). A similar effect size was maintained at 3-month (d = 0.85) and 6-month (d = 1.02) follow-up assessments.
Adolescents with PTSD experienced greater benefit from prolonged exposure treatment when provided by non-specialist health workers (nurses) in a community setting.
Projected changes to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnostic criteria in the upcoming International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-11 may affect the prevalence and severity of identified cases. This study examined differences in rates, severity, and overlap of diagnoses using ICD-10 and ICD-11 PTSD diagnostic criteria during consecutive assessments of recent survivors of traumatic events.
The study sample comprised 3863 survivors of traumatic events, evaluated in 11 longitudinal studies of PTSD. ICD-10 and ICD-11 diagnostic rules were applied to the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) to derive ICD-10 and ICD-11 diagnoses at different time intervals between trauma occurrence and 15 months.
The ICD-11 criteria identified fewer cases than the ICD-10 across assessment intervals (range −47.09% to −57.14%). Over 97% of ICD-11 PTSD cases met concurrent ICD-10 PTSD criteria. PTSD symptom severity of individuals identified by the ICD-11 criteria (CAPS total scores) was 31.38–36.49% higher than those identified by ICD-10 criteria alone. The latter, however, had CAPS scores indicative of moderate PTSD. ICD-11 was associated with similar or higher rates of comorbid mood and anxiety disorders. Individuals identified by either ICD-10 or ICD-11 shortly after traumatic events had similar longitudinal course.
This study indicates that significantly fewer individuals would be diagnosed with PTSD using the proposed ICD-11 criteria. Though ICD-11 criteria identify more severe cases, those meeting ICD-10 but not ICD-11 criteria remain in the moderate range of PTSD symptoms. Use of ICD-11 criteria will have critical implications for case identification in clinical practice, national reporting, and research.
Much has changed since the two dominant mental health nosological systems, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), were first published in 1900 and 1952, respectively. Despite numerous modifications to stay up to date with scientific and cultural changes (eg, exclusion of homosexuality as a disorder) and to improve the cultural sensitivity of psychiatric diagnoses, the ICD and DSM have only recently renewed attempts at harmonization. Previous nosological iterations demonstrate the oscillation in the importance placed on the biological focus, highlighting the tension between a gender- and culture-free nosology (solely biological) and a contextually relevant understanding of mental illness. In light of the release of the DSM 5, future nosological systems, such as the ICD 11, scheduled for release in 2017, and the Research Development Criteria (RDoC), can learn from history and apply critiques. This article aims to critically consider gender and culture in previous editions of the ICD and DSM to inform forthcoming classifications.
Pharmacological treatment is widely used for post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) despite questions over its efficacy.
To determine the efficacy of all types of pharmacotherapy, as
monotherapy, in reducing symptoms of PTSD, and to assess
A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials was
undertaken; 51 studies were included.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were found to be statistically
superior to placebo in reduction of PTSD symptoms but the effect size was
small (standardised mean difference −0.23, 95% CI −0.33 to −0.12). For
individual pharmacological agents compared with placebo in two or more
trials, we found small statistically significant evidence of efficacy for
fluoxetine, paroxetine and venlafaxine.
Some drugs have a small positive impact on PTSD symptoms and are
acceptable. Fluoxetine, paroxetine and venlafaxine may be considered as
potential treatments for the disorder. For most drugs there is inadequate
evidence regarding efficacy for PTSD, pointing to the need for more
research in this area.
Trichotillomania (TTM) is increasingly being recognized as a prevalent disorder. Nevertheless, few data are available regarding the effects of TTM on quality of life or the economic costs associated with this disorder. Two hundred members of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Association of South Africa were surveyed in this pilot study, using a detailed self-report questionnaire. Of the 75 respondents, 27 reported hair pulling as a symptom. Results from this investigation indicate that hair pulling may be associated with substantial morbidity, including significant effects on occupational, academic, social, and family functioning. Additional costs may be incurred by delays in seeking treatment and incorrect diagnoses. While further work in a larger sample of patients is clearly needed, psychoeducation of practitioners and the public on TTM may result in earlier referral, diagnosis, treatment, and greater cost savings in the long term.
There is a substantial body of evidence that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms can be grouped into a series of discrete dimensions, and some evidence that not all OCD symptom dimensions respond equally well to pharmacologic or psychotherapeutic intervention. The response of OCD symptom dimensions to 12 weeks of treatment with escitalopram or placebo was investigated.
Data from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of escitalopram in 466 adults with OCD were analyzed. Exploratory factor analysis of individual items of the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale checklist was performed and subscale scores based on the extracted factors were determined. Analyses of covariance were undertaken to determine whether inclusion of each subscale score in these models impacted on the efficacy of escitalopram versus placebo.
Exploratory factor analysis of individual Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale items yielded 5 factors (contamination/cleaning, harm/checking, hoarding/symmetry, religious/sexual, and somatic/hypochondriacal). Analyses of covariance including all the subscales demonstrated that escitalopram was more effective than placebo. There was a significant interaction for the hoarding/symmetry factor, which was associated with a poor treatment response.
Escitalopram shows good efficacy across the range of OCD symptom dimensions. Nevertheless, hoarding/symmetry was associated with a poorer treatment response. Hoarding/symmetry may be particularly characteristic of an early-onset group of OCD patients, with the involvement of neurotransmitters other than serotonin. Further work is needed to delineate fully the subtypes of OCD, and their correlates with underlying psychobiology and treatment responsivity.
The neurobiology of trichotillomania (TTM) has only recently received attention from the neuropsychiatrie community, and the number of studies in this area is limited. Nevertheless, there is tentative support for the hypothesis that serotonergic, dopaminergic, and opioid systems mediate hair-pulling symptoms, and that corticostriatal circuits also play a role. An understanding of the neurobiology of TTM may be of value not only for the treatment of this disorder, but also for other stereotypic behaviors.
Epidemiological and clinical data from a variety of cultural and geographic settings on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and many of the obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders, suggest that this is a group of disorders with a good degree of transcultural homogeneity. However, the content and themes that predominate in patients with these disorders, and the course of illness, can be shaped by cultural, ethnic, and religious experiences. Across cultures, OCD is commonly comorbid with mood, anxiety, and impulse-control disorders. However, little is known about the mechanisms by which culture and ethnicity may affect the expression of OCD and related disorders. Cross-national comparative studies exploring culturally influenced differences in clinical course, treatment outcome, including ethnogenetic differences in drug response, and prognosis are needed.