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Psychological trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been associated with advanced epigenetic age. However, whether epigenetic aging measured at the time of trauma predicts the subsequent development of PTSD outcomes is unknown. Moreover, the neural substrates underlying posttraumatic outcomes associated with epigenetic aging are unclear.
We examined a multi-ancestry cohort of women and men (n = 289) who presented to the emergency department (ED) after trauma. Blood DNA was collected at ED presentation, and EPIC DNA methylation arrays were used to assess four widely used metrics of epigenetic aging (HorvathAge, HannumAge, PhenoAge, and GrimAge). PTSD symptoms were evaluated longitudinally at the time of ED presentation and over the ensuing 6 months. Structural and functional neuroimaging was performed 2 weeks after trauma.
After covariate adjustment and correction for multiple comparisons, advanced ED GrimAge predicted increased risk for 6-month probable PTSD diagnosis. Secondary analyses suggested that the prediction of PTSD by GrimAge was driven by worse trajectories for intrusive memories and nightmares. Advanced ED GrimAge was also associated with reduced volume of the whole amygdala and specific amygdala subregions, including the cortico-amygdaloid transition and the cortical and accessory basal nuclei.
Our findings shed new light on the relation between biological aging and trauma-related phenotypes, suggesting that GrimAge measured at the time of trauma predicts PTSD trajectories and is associated with relevant brain alterations. Furthering these findings has the potential to enhance early prevention and treatment of posttraumatic psychiatric sequelae.
The utilisation of massed therapy for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is gaining strength, especially prolonged exposure. However, it is unknown whether massed prolonged exposure (MPE) is non-inferior to standard prolonged exposure (SPE) protocols in the long term. The current study aimed to assess whether MPE was non-inferior to SPE at 12 months post-treatment, and to ascertain changes in secondary measure outcomes.
A multi-site non-inferiority randomised controlled trial (RCT) compared SPE with MPE in 12 clinics. The primary outcome was PTSD symptom severity (CAPS-5) at 12 months post-treatment commencement. Secondary outcome measures included symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, disability, and quality of life at 12 weeks and 12 months post-treatment commencement. Outcome assessors were blinded to treatment allocation. The intention-to-treat sample included 138 Australian military members and veterans and data were analysed for 134 participants (SPE = 71, MPE = 63).
Reductions in PTSD severity were maintained at 12 months and MPE remained non-inferior to SPE. Both treatment groups experienced a reduction in depression, anxiety, anger, and improvements in quality of life at 12 weeks and 12 months post-treatment commencement. Treatment effects for self-reported disability in the SPE group at 12 weeks were not maintained, with neither group registering significant effects at 12 months.
The emergence of massed protocols for PTSD is an important advancement. The current study provides RCT evidence for the longevity of MPE treatment gains at 12 months post-treatment commencement and demonstrated non-inferiority to SPE. Promisingly, both treatments also significantly reduced the severity of comorbid symptoms commonly occurring alongside PTSD.
There is a tension in military culture between the growing acceptance of moral injury and an idealized view of Stoicism that leaves little room for the guilt and shame, mercy and forgiveness characteristic of moral injury and repair. Does that emotion-lean view do justice to ancient Stoic doctrine? I argue that it does not. The emotions of the Stoic moral aspirant, such as shame and moral distress, bear striking similarities to the negative self-reactive attitudes that P.F. Strawson famously discusses. Notions of mercy and forgiveness speak to the positive reactive attitudes. I develop my argument by turning to Seneca’s essay, On Mercy and his play, the Trojan Woman. Mercy, Seneca insists, makes good on the gentler side of Stoicism. Learning from the mercy others show us, and that we would show them, is one way that soldiers can begin to show mercy towards themselves.
Previous meta-analyses of psychotherapies for children and adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) did not investigate whether treatment efficacy is diminished when patients report multiple (versus single) traumas.
To examine whether efficacy of psychological interventions for paediatric PTSD is diminished when patients report multiple (versus single) traumas.
We systematically searched PsycInfo, MEDLINE, Web of Science and PTSDpubs on 21 April 2022 and included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) meeting the following criteria: (a) random allocation; (b) all participants presented with partial or full PTSD; (c) PTSD is the primary treatment focus; (d) sample mean age <19 years; (e) sample size n ≥ 20. Trauma frequency was analysed as a dichotomous (single versus ≥2 traumas) and continuous (mean number of exposures) potential moderator of efficacy.
Of the 57 eligible RCTs (n = 4295), 51 RCTs were included in quantitative analyses. Relative to passive control conditions, interventions were found effective for single-trauma-related PTSD (Hedges’ g = 1.09; 95% CI 0.70–1.48; k = 8 trials) and multiple-trauma-related PTSD (g = 1.11; 95% CI 0.74–1.47; k = 12). Psychotherapies were also more effective than active control conditions in reducing multiple-trauma-related PTSD. Comparison with active control conditions regarding single-event PTSD was not possible owing to scarcity (k = 1) of available trials. Efficacy did not differ with trauma exposure frequency irrespective of its operationalisation and subgroup analyses (e.g. trauma-focused cognitive–behavioural therapy only).
The current evidence base suggests that psychological interventions for paediatric PTSD can effectively treat PTSD in populations reporting single and multiple traumas. Future trials for PTSD following single-event trauma need to involve active control conditions.
Evidence on the long-term comparative effectiveness of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) psychotherapies in adults remains unknown. Therefore, we performed an extensive network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to determine the comparative effectiveness of psychotherapies for people diagnosed with PTSD.
A comprehensive search was conducted in Cochrane library, Embase, Medline-OVID, PubMed, Scopus, and Psych-Info until March 2021. Studies on the effectiveness of cognitive processing therapy (CPT), cognitive therapy (CT), eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR), narrative exposure therapy (NET), prolonged exposure (PE), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), present-centred therapy (PCT), brief eclectic psychotherapies (BEP), psychodynamic therapy (PDT) or combination therapies compared to no treatment (NT) or treatment as usual (TAU) in adults with PTSD were included. Frequentist and Bayesian approaches were used for analysis in R-software.
We included 98 RCTs with 5567 participants from 18 897 studies. CPT, EMDR, CT, NET, PE, CBT, and PCT were significant to reduce PTSD symptoms (SMD range: −1.53 to −0.75; Certainty: very low to high) at immediate post-treatment and ranked accordingly. Longitudinal analysis found EMDR (1.02) and CPT (0.85) as the significant therapies with large effect size in short-term and long-term follow-up, respectively. NET and CPT showed higher proportion of loss of PTSD diagnosis (RR range: 5.51–3.45) while there were no significant psychotherapies for retention rate compared to NT.
Our findings provide evidence for improving current guidelines and informing clinical decision-making for PTSD management. However, the best PTSD treatment plan should be tailored to patients' needs, characteristics, and clinician expertise.
When post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) co-occurs with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), symptoms of the former can interfere with evidence-based treatment of the latter. As a result, exposure-based treatments are recommended for both OCD and PTSD, potentially facilitating a concurrent treatment approach. This case study describes the application of concurrent cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT including exposure and response prevention; ERP) for OCD and narrative exposure therapy to treat a patient whose PTSD symptoms of intrusive images of memories and hyperarousal were interfering with standard CBT (including ERP) treatment for OCD. Following this concurrent approach, the patient’s symptoms of OCD reduced to non-clinical levels and showed reliable improvement in PTSD symptoms. Whilst further methodologically robust research is required, this case study highlights that this approach may be beneficial to the treatment of OCD where PTSD symptoms are impacting on treatment.
Key learning aims
(1) To explore the literature considering explanations of the co-occurrence of OCD and PTSD symptomology.
(2) To consider how symptoms of two mental health conditions can maintain one another and attenuate the effectiveness of evidence-based treatment for the other mental health condition.
(3) Consider the use of concurrent therapeutic approaches to treat co-occurring mental health conditions.
Deficiency in contextual and enhanced responding in cued fear learning may contribute to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We examined the responses to aversive Pavlovian conditioning with an unpredictable spatial context as conditioned stimulus compared to a predictable context. We hypothesized that the PTSD group would demonstrate less hippocampal and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) activation during acquisition and extinction of unpredictable contexts and an over-reactive amygdala response in the predictable contexts compared to controls.
A novel combined differential cue-context conditioning paradigm was applied using virtual reality with spatial contexts that required configural and cue processing. We assessed 20 patients with PTSD, 21 healthy trauma-exposed (TC) and 22 non-trauma-exposed (HC) participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging, skin conductance responses, and self-report measures.
During fear acquisition, patients with PTSD compared to TC showed lower activity in the hippocampi in the unpredictable and higher activity in the amygdalae in the predictable context. During fear extinction, TC compared to patients and HC showed higher brain activity in the vmPFC in the predictable context. There were no significant differences in self-report or skin conductance responses.
Our results suggest that patients with PTSD differ in brain activation from controls in regions such as the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the vmPFC in the processing of unpredictable and predictable contexts. Deficient encoding of more complex configurations might lead to a preponderance of cue-based predictions in PTSD. Exposure-based treatments need to focus on improving predictability of contextual processing and reducing enhanced cue reactivity.
Trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT) is recommended by NICE for adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whilst caregiver involvement is recommended, no specific guidance on the nature of involvement is provided although it is important that involvement takes account of the nature of the trauma. This case report details how Dummett’s systemic CBT formulation was used to plan an intervention such that systemic sessions were included in TF-CBT treatment of an adolescent female with PTSD which arose following interpersonal trauma. Trauma symptoms, trauma cognitions and depressive symptoms were measured throughout, with trauma symptoms showing clinically significant change over the course of therapy. Clinical implications are considered regarding the applicability of systemic CBT formulation and the inclusion of systemic sessions within TF-CBT for adolescents whose traumas arose interpersonally.
Key learning aims
(1) To be able to incorporate systemic factors into a formulation of the maintenance of PTSD for adolescents using Dummett’s systemic cognitive behavioural formulation.
(2) To identify systemic interventions that may facilitate change in interactions between adolescents and parental figures and change in trauma appraisals.
Refugees and asylum seekers present with high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), whilst little research has been conducted to assess the effectiveness or acceptability of psychological interventions for this group. Imagery rescripting is effective in reducing distressing intrusive memories within a range of conditions. The current study evaluates this approach for the treatment of PTSD in refugees and asylum seekers within a UK NHS service.
To evaluate the clinical outcomes of using imagery rescripting for the treatment of PTSD in UK-based refugees and asylum seekers.
Ten adult service-users from an NHS specialist service with a primary diagnosis of PTSD were recruited as part of routine service delivery. A multiple baseline design was used with participants randomly allocated to a baseline varying from 5 to 9 weeks. A baseline wait-period was followed by up to five sessions of psychoeducation and treatment preparation, in turn followed by up to 10 sessions of imagery rescripting. The Post-traumatic Symptom Scale (PSS) and Physical Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) were collected every week during baseline, at end of treatment and weekly for 5 weeks after treatment, and again at 12-week follow-up. Data were analysed with mixed regression.
Results indicate a significant improvement both in PTSD symptoms and mood, and that this was attributable to the imagery rescripting phase of the intervention, and not the passage of time or non-specific therapy factors.
Evidence indicates imagery rescripting to be a safe and effective treatment choice for PTSD in refugees and asylum seekers.
Much of the research on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) has been conducted in high-income countries (HICs). However, PTSD and AUD commonly co-occur (PTSD + AUD) are both associated with high global burden of disease, and disproportionately impact those in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This narrative review attempts to synthesize the research on prevalence, impact, etiological models, and treatment of PTSD + AUD drawing from research conducted in HICs and discussing the research that has been conducted to date in LMICs. The review also discusses overall limitations in the field, including a lack of research on PTSD + AUD outside of HICs, issues with measurement of key constructs, and limitations in sampling strategies across comorbidity studies. Future directions are discussed, including a need for rigorous research studies conducted in LMICs that focus on both etiological mechanisms and on treatment approaches.
Long-term efficacy of brief psychotherapies for refugees in low-resource settings is insufficiently understood. Integrative adapt therapy (IAT) is a scalable treatment addressing refugee-specific psychosocial challenges.
We report 12-month post-treatment data from a single-blind, active-controlled trial (October 2017–August 2019) where 327 Myanmar refugees in Malaysia were assigned to either six sessions of IAT (n = 164) or cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) (n = 163). Primary outcomes were posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and persistent complex bereavement disorder (PCBD) symptom scores at treatment end and 12-month post-treatment. Secondary outcome was functional impairment.
282 (86.2%) participants were retained at 12-month follow-up. For both groups, large treatment effects for common mental disorders (CMD) symptoms were maintained at 12-month post-treatment compared to baseline (d = 0.75–1.13). Although participants in IAT had greater symptom reductions and larger effect sizes than CBT participants for all CMDs at treatment end, there were no significant differences between treatment arms at 12-month post-treatment for PTSD [mean difference: −0.9, 95% CI (−2.5 to 0.6), p = 0.25], depression [mean difference: 0.1, 95% CI (−0.6 to 0.7), p = 0.89), anxiety [mean difference: −0.4, 95% CI (−1.4 to 0.6), p = 0.46], and PCBD [mean difference: −0.6, 95% CI (−3.1 to 1.9), p = 0.65]. CBT participants showed greater improvement in functioning than IAT participants at 12-month post-treatment [mean difference: −2.5, 95% CI (−4.7 to −0.3], p = 0.03]. No adverse effects were recorded for either therapy.
Both IAT and CBT showed sustained treatment gains for CMD symptoms amongst refugees over the 12-month period.
Research indicates that perinatal loss can cause profound psychological consequences in parents. However, a comprehensive summary of existing quantitative literature describing the association between perinatal loss and the development of depression/depressive symptoms or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)/post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms in fathers has not been published.
A systematic literature search (from inception to December 2021), using the PubMed, EMBASE, and Web of Science databases to articles assessing depressive or PTS symptoms, was conducted following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Only studies investigating the period of intrauterine death from 20 weeks of gestation, stillbirth, or neonatal death within the first month after birth were included.
A final sample of 13 articles were eligible for inclusion. Some studies showed an increased risk of depressive and PTS symptoms in fathers after perinatal loss. However, many study results did not show significant differences, symptoms generally decreased over time, and the majority of studies showed higher levels of depressive and PTS symptoms in mothers, compared with fathers.
Although the majority of the included studies showed elevated levels of depressive and/or PTSD symptoms after perinatal loss in fathers, no clear firm conclusion can be drawn, as the included studies were very heterogeneous. More homogeneous research measuring depressive and PTS symptoms in fathers is needed at the time of the loss, as the current literature available shows several limitations and gaps.
During stressful experiences the endocrine and brain systems involved have distinct neurochemical processes which enhance the power of the memory. Post-traumatic stress disorder is due not only to psychological factors, but neurochemical and evolutionary ones as well. It is valuable for people who have experienced stressful life events to realize that the power these memories have is not entirely psychological. It is in a deeply developed neural pathway created and preserved in the brain in a resilient fashion. Understanding that this is not a question primarily of “getting over It,” but rather “learning to live with it” may help. Stress has many effects on the brain and the body. Bolstering your physical reserves with physical activity, effective sleep, and a healthy diet enhances the ability to deal with stress. The experience of stress involves not only the brain, but also the body’s cardiovascular system and other parts. It is best if the work of dealing with stressful factors is accomplished early, before the achlyievement of great age. Several strategies can help to deal with stress: restful sleep, meditation, diet, cognitive and physical exercise, and avoidance of toxins.
Research on biased processing of aversive stimuli in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has produced inconsistent results between response time (RT) and eye-tracking studies. Recent RT-based results of dot-probe studies showed no attentional bias (AB) for threat while eye-tracking research suggested heightened sustained attention for this information. Here, we used both RT-based and eye-tracking measures to explore the dynamics of AB to negative stimuli in PTSD.
Twenty-three individuals diagnosed with PTSD, 23 trauma-exposed healthy controls, and 23 healthy controls performed an emotional dot-probe task with pairs of negative and neutral scenes presented for either 1 or 2 s. Analyses included eye movements during the presentation of the scenes and RT associated with target localization.
There was no evidence for an AB toward negative stimuli in PTSD from RT measures. However, the main eye-tracking results revealed that all three groups showed longer dwell times on negative pictures than neutral pictures at 1 s and that this AB was stronger for individuals with PTSD. Moreover, although AB disappeared for the two groups of healthy controls with prolonged exposure, it persisted for individuals with PTSD.
PTSD is associated with an AB toward negative stimuli, characterized by heightened sustained attention toward negative scenes once detected. This study sheds light on the dynamics of AB to negative stimuli in PTSD and encourages us to consider optimized therapeutic interventions targeting abnormal AB patterns.
Considerable heterogeneity exists in treatment response to first-line posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatments, such as Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Relatively little is known about the timing of when during a course of care the treatment response becomes apparent. Novel machine learning methods, especially continuously updating prediction models, have the potential to address these gaps in our understanding of response and optimize PTSD treatment.
Using data from a 3-week (n = 362) CPT-based intensive PTSD treatment program (ITP), we explored three methods for generating continuously updating prediction models to predict endpoint PTSD severity. These included Mixed Effects Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (MixedBART), Mixed Effects Random Forest (MERF) machine learning models, and Linear Mixed Effects models (LMM). Models used baseline and self-reported PTSD symptom severity data collected every other day during treatment. We then validated our findings by examining model performances in a separate, equally established, 2-week CPT-based ITP (n = 108).
Results across approaches were very similar and indicated modest prediction accuracy at baseline (R2 ~ 0.18), with increasing accuracy of predictions of final PTSD severity across program timepoints (e.g. mid-program R2 ~ 0.62). Similar findings were obtained when the models were applied to the 2-week ITP. Neither the MERF nor the MixedBART machine learning approach outperformed LMM prediction, though benefits of each may differ based on the application.
Utilizing continuously updating models in PTSD treatments may be beneficial for clinicians in determining whether an individual is responding, and when this determination can be made.
Imagery rescripting (ImRs) is a therapy technique that, unlike traditional re-living techniques, focuses less on exposure and verbal challenging of cognitions and instead encourages patients to directly transform the intrusive imagery to change the depicted course of events in a more desired direction. However, a comprehensive account of how and in what circumstances ImRs brings about therapeutic change is required if treatment is to be optimised, and this is yet to be developed. The present study reports on the development of a coding scheme of ImRs psychotherapy elements identified in the literature as potential ImRs mechanisms. The codes were assessed in relation to short-term outcomes of 27 individuals undergoing ImRs for post-traumatic stress disorder. The timing of the change in the image, degree of activation of the new image and associated cognitive, emotional and physiological processes, self-guided rescripting, rescript believability, narrative coherence and cognitive and emotional shift were identified as being related to symptom change and so are potentially important factors for the re-scripting process.
This chapter provides an understanding of the ways that past trauma can affect women in pregnancy and postnatally. It provides guidance on how to recognise and understand the symptoms of post traumatic stress and information on why a traumatic event can continue to affect a person deeply, even if it was a long time ago, other circumstances have moved on or it is not considered ‘traumatic’ by others. The focus is on maternity and birth-related traumas, although the principles apply to other types of trauma. Evidence-based techniques will help you understand and work through your reactions to trauma and will help you put intrusive memories into the past so that you can untangle the past and present. This chapter covers working with self-blame and tackling other consequences of trauma such as feelings of disconnection as well as practical tips on talking to loved ones and professionals in order to get the right support at this time.
Severe anxiety affects a huge number of women in pregnancy and the postnatal period, making a challenging time even more difficult. You may be suffering from uncontrollable worries about pregnancy and birth, distressing intrusive thoughts of accidental or deliberate harm to the baby, or fears connected to traumatic experiences. This practical self-help guide provides an active route out of feeling anxious. Step-by-step, the book teaches you to apply cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) techniques in the particular context of pregnancy and becoming a new parent in order to overcome maternal anxiety in all its forms. Working through the book you will gain understanding of your anxiety and how factors from the past and present may be playing a role in how you feel. Together with practical exercises and worksheets to move through at your own pace, you will gain the tools you need to help you move forward and enjoy parenthood.
Therapies focused on exposure like prolonged exposure (PE) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) dominate the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are many patients with PTSD who are not fully responding with exposure-therapies. or don’t want exposure therapies at all. Many patients don’t like to be confronted with elements of their traumatic experience. IPT has proven to be highly efficient in e.g. depression and bulimia and is promising as a treatment for PTSD while NOT using exposure. IPT aims to repair the damage trauma does to interpersonal trust and social functioning.
Learn more about IPT. Learn more about the way IPT is used in the treatment for patients with PTSD (adaptations).
Literature review focused on IPT for PTSD.
Among the consequences of PTSD are affective numbing, interpersonal hypervigilance, and social withdrawal (1). Numbness, an avoidance particularly of negative affect, makes it hard to read one’s interpersonal environment. Thus in adapting IPT for PTSD, we devote the early part of treatment to affective reattunement: helping patients to identify their emotions and to recognize them as helpful social signals. Once patients can read their feelings, they can put them to use to handle relationships better, deciding whom they can trust and whom they can’t. IPT for PTSD tends to focus on role transitions, which are usually inherent having been traumatized (2).
In the past there has been several kinds of research that show that group IPT and individual IPT reduce PTSD and depression in traumatized patients with PTSD.