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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly experienced by asylum seekers and refugees (ASR). Evidence supports the use of cognitive behavioural therapy-based treatments, but not in group format for this population. However, group-based treatments are frequently used as a first-line intervention in the UK.
This study investigated the feasibility of delivering a group-based, manualised stabilisation course specifically developed for ASR. The second aim was to evaluate the use of routine outcome measures (ROMs) to capture psychological change in this population.
Eighty-two participants from 22 countries attended the 8-session Moving On After Trauma (MOAT) group-based stabilisation treatment. PHQ-9, GAD-7, IES-R and idiosyncratic outcomes were administered pre- and post-intervention.
Seventy-one per cent of participants (n = 58) attended five or more of the treatment sessions. While completion rates of the ROMs were poor – measures were completed at pre- and post-intervention for 46% participants (n = 38) – a repeated-measures MANOVA indicated significant improvements in depression (p = .001, ηp2 = .262), anxiety (p = .000, ηp2 = .390), PTSD (p = .001, ηp2 = .393) and idiosyncratic measures (p = .000, ηp2 = .593) following the intervention.
Preliminary evidence indicates that ASR who attended a low-intensity, group-based stabilisation group for PTSD experienced lower mental health scores post-group, although the lack of a comparison group means these results should be interpreted with caution. There are significant challenges in administering ROMs to individuals who speak many different languages, in a group setting. Nonetheless, groups have benefits including efficiency of treatment delivery which should also be considered.
Several types of psychological treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are considered well established and effective, but evidence of their long-term efficacy is limited. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to investigate the long-term outcomes across psychological treatments for PTSD. MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, PTSDpubs, PsycINFO, PSYNDEX, and related articles were searched for randomized controlled trials with at least 12 months of follow-up. Twenty-two studies (N = 2638) met inclusion criteria, and 43 comparisons of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) were available at follow-up. Active treatments for PTSD yielded large effect sizes from pretest to follow-up and a small controlled effect size compared with non-directive control groups at follow-up. Trauma-focused treatment (TFT) and non-TFT showed large improvements from pretest to follow-up, and effect sizes did not significantly differ from each other. Active treatments for comorbid depressive symptoms revealed small to medium effect sizes at follow-up, and improved PTSD and depressive symptoms remained stable from treatment end to follow-up. Military personnel, low proportion of female patients, and self-rated PTSD measures were associated with decreased effect sizes for PTSD at follow-up. The findings suggest that CBT for PTSD is efficacious in the long term. Future studies are needed to determine the lasting efficacy of other psychological treatments and to confirm benefits beyond 12-month follow-up.
The practice of military psychiatry is, in part, a function of the size and role of a nation’s armed forces. The end of National Service in 1960 and cuts to defence budgets saw the British Army contract by two-thirds, with reductions to its medical services. Despite suffering psychological casualties in the Falklands War and the sustained challenge of counter-insurgency operations in Northern Ireland, no research was conducted into PTSD experienced by British forces until the mid-1990s. The focus on Gulf War syndrome diverted attention from common mental illnesses towards hypotheses of toxic exposure. A Strategic Defence Review conducted by the Labour government in 1998 defined a broader global role for the UK military to enhance the country’s international influence, and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan followed. Women, integrated within all three services from 1992, joined in rising numbers but reported elevated rates of mental illness and may have been exposed to greater risk of military sexual trauma. A class action for negligence in the detection and treatment of PTSD in 2002 encouraged the Ministry of Defence to fund research into psychological illness and develop services for trauma-related injury.
The 2019 coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic and has greatly affected both patients and healthcare workers. This study was conducted to explore the extent of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experiences among nurses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Jordan.
This study used a cross-sectional study design with a convenience sampling approach. A sample of 259 participants completed the study questionnaires, including a socio-demographic questionnaire and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5, between May and July 2020.
The prevalence of PTSD among the study participants was 37.1%. The majority of study participants who exhibited PTSD symptoms presented the lowest level of PTSD (17%). The results indicated significant differences in overall COVID-19-related PTSD according to the participant’s age (F = 14.750, P = .000), gender (F = 30.340, P = .000), level of education (F = 51.983, P =.000), years of experience (F = 52.33, P = .000), place of work (F = 19.593, P = .000), and working position (F = 11.597, P = .000), as determined by one-way ANOVA.
Nurses must be qualified and accredited to cope with reported PTSD cases and their consequences in relation to COVID-19 outbreaks. A close collaboration with a multidisciplinary team is required to recognise, manage, and encourage safety literacy among health care professionals and individuals diagnosed with or suspected of PTSD due to COVID-19 outbreaks or any other viral outbreaks.
Nightmares are a hallmark symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This strong association may reflect a shared pathophysiology in the form of altered autonomic activity and increased reactivity. Using an acoustic startle paradigm, we investigated the interrelationships of psychophysiological measures during wakefulness and PTSD diagnosis, posttraumatic nightmares, and nontraumatic nightmares.
A community sample of 122 trauma survivors were presented with a series of brief loud tones, while heart rate (HRR), skin conductance (SCR), and orbicularis oculi electromyogram (EMGR) responses were measured. Prior to the tone presentations, resting heart rate variability (HRV) was assessed. Nightmares were measured using nightmare logs. Three dichotomous groupings of participants were compared: (1) current PTSD diagnosis (n = 59), no PTSD diagnosis (n = 63), (2) those with (n = 26) or without (n = 96) frequent posttraumatic nightmares, and (3) those with (n = 22) or without (n = 100) frequent nontraumatic nightmares.
PTSD diagnosis was associated with posttraumatic but not with nontraumatic nightmares. Both PTSD and posttraumatic nightmares were associated with a larger mean HRR to loud tones, whereas nontraumatic nightmare frequency was associated with a larger SCR. EMGR and resting HRV were not associated with PTSD diagnosis or nightmares.
Our findings suggest a shared pathophysiology between PTSD and posttraumatic nightmares in the form of increased HR reactivity to startling tones, which might reflect reduced parasympathetic tone. This shared pathophysiology could explain why PTSD is more strongly related to posttraumatic than nontraumatic nightmares, which could have important clinical implications.
The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused myriad health, social, and economic stressors. To date, however, no known study has examined changes in mental health during the pandemic in the U.S. military veteran population.
Data were analyzed from the 2019–2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, a nationally representative, prospective cohort survey of 3078 veterans. Pre-to-peri-pandemic changes in psychiatric symptoms were evaluated, as well as pre-pandemic risk and protective factors and pandemic-related correlates of increased psychiatric distress.
The prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) positive screens increased from pre- to peri-pandemic (7.1% to 9.4%; p < 0.001) and was driven by an increase among veterans aged 45–64 years (8.2% to 13.5%; p < 0.001), but the prevalence of major depressive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder positive screens remained stable. Using a continuous measure of psychiatric distress, an estimated 13.2% of veterans reported a clinically meaningful pre-to-peri-pandemic increase in distress (mean = 1.1 standard deviation). Veterans with a larger pre-pandemic social network size and secure attachment style were less likely to experience increased distress, whereas veterans reporting more pre-pandemic loneliness were more likely to experience increased distress. Concerns about pandemic-related social losses, mental health COVID-19 effects, and housing stability during the pandemic were associated with increased distress, over-and-above pre-pandemic factors.
Although most U.S. veterans showed resilience to mental health problems nearly 1 year into the pandemic, the prevalence of GAD positive screens increased, particularly among middle-aged veterans, and one of seven veterans experienced increased distress. Clinical implications of these findings are discussed.
Positive health endpoints are not the opposite of negative endpoints. Previous studies examining posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) trajectories have overlooked the co-existence of PTSD and PTG, making it difficult to accurately distinguish individuals with various posttraumatic presentations, causing the effects of targeted interventions to be discounted. To fill this gap, the current study sought to examine joint PTSD and PTG trajectories in children and adolescents. Eight hundred and seventy-six Chinese children and adolescents were recruited to complete self-report questionnaires 6, 12, and 18 months after the Ya'an earthquake. Multiple-process growth mixture modeling analysis was used to test the study proposal. Five distinct joint PTSD and PTG trajectory types were found: recovery, growth, struggling, resistant, and delayed symptoms. Female students and students who felt trapped or fearful were more likely to be in the struggling group, and students who experienced injury to themselves or family members were more likely to belong to the delayed symptom group. These findings suggest that postdisaster psychological services should be provided to relieve delayed symptoms in individuals who experience injury to themselves or their family members, and individuals in the struggling group should be supported to achieve growth.
The functioning of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis is implicated in the etiology and maintenance of depressive and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. However, different maltreatment experiences as well as the increased sensitivity of the HPA axis during puberty may alter associations between the HPA axis and mental health. To address these gaps, the current study examined the potential bidirectional associations between cortisol reactivity to a stressor, PTSD symptoms, and depressive symptoms among early adolescents across two time points, 1 year apart (n = 454; Mage = 10.98 at Time 1 and Mage = 12.11 at Time 2). Multiple-group path models tested the pathways between cortiol reactivity and mental health prior to and during puberty, for different types of maltreatment . Overall, the results showed that associations between cortisol output and symptoms of PTSD and depression were driven by those in the midst of puberty. Specifically, higher cortisol output at Time 1 was linked with higher levels of subsequent PTSD and depressive symptoms for neglected youth who had reached puberty. However, depressive symptoms predicted subsequent lower cortisol output for the physical abuse and emotional abuse groups. These findings demonstrate longitudinal links between cortisol, depressive symptoms, and PTSD symptoms among youth with different types of maltreatment histories and highlight the need to consider the reorganization of the stress system during puberty in order to advance our understanding of the HPA axis and mental health.
Research indicates that higher study quality may be associated with smaller treatment effects. Yet, knowledge about the association between study quality and treatment efficacy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is limited. We aimed at evaluating the efficacy of psychological interventions for adult PTSD and the association between study quality and treatment effects.
We conducted a systematic search to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that examined the efficacy of psychological interventions for chronic PTSD symptoms in adult samples with at least 70% of patients being diagnosed with PTSD by means of a structured interview. We assessed study quality using the following eight criteria from prior research: N ⩾ 50, all patients met criteria for PTSD, a treatment manual was used, therapists were trained, treatment integrity was checked, intent-to-treat analyses were applied, randomization was conducted by an independent party, and treatment outcome was conducted by blind assessors.
The search resulted in 136 RCTs with 8978 patients. Active treatment conditions were largely effective in reducing PTSD symptoms at posttreatment and follow-up (Hedges' g = 1.09 and 0.81, respectively) when compared to passive control conditions. The comparison to active control conditions at posttreatment and follow-up resulted in medium effect sizes. A total of 14 trials met all study quality criteria and these trials produced large effect sizes when compared to passive control conditions at posttreatment and follow-up.
Overall, study quality was not significantly associated with effect size. The findings indicate that psychological interventions can effectively reduce PTSD symptoms irrespective of study quality.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are highly comorbid and are associated with significant functional impairment and inconsistent treatment outcomes. Data-driven subtyping of this clinically heterogeneous patient population and the associated underlying neural mechanisms are highly needed to identify who will benefit from psychotherapy.
In 53 comorbid PTSD/AUD patients, resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging was collected prior to undergoing individual psychotherapy. We used a data-driven approach to subgroup patients based on directed connectivity profiles. Connectivity subgroups were compared on clinical measures of PTSD severity and heavy alcohol use collected at pre- and post-treatment.
We identified a subgroup of patients associated with improvement in PTSD symptoms from integrated-prolonged exposure therapy. This subgroup was characterized by lower insula to inferior parietal cortex (IPC) connectivity, higher pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC) to posterior midcingulate cortex connectivity and a unique pgACC to IPC path. We did not observe any connectivity subgroup that uniquely benefited from integrated-coping skills or subgroups associated with change in alcohol consumption.
Data-driven approaches to characterize PTSD/AUD subtypes have the potential to identify brain network profiles that are implicated in the benefit from psychological interventions – setting the stage for future research that targets these brain circuit communication patterns to boost treatment efficacy.
A major obstacle in understanding and treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is its clinical and neurobiological heterogeneity. To address this barrier, the field has become increasingly interested in identifying subtypes of PTSD based on dysfunction in neural networks alongside cognitive impairments that may underlie the development and maintenance of symptoms. The current study aimed to determine if subtypes of PTSD, based on normative-based cognitive dysfunction across multiple domains, have unique neural network signatures.
In a sample of 271 veterans (90% male) that completed both neuropsychological testing and resting-state fMRI, two complementary, whole-brain functional connectivity analyses explored the link between brain functioning, PTSD symptoms, and cognition.
At the network level, PTSD symptom severity was associated with reduced negative coupling between the limbic network (LN) and frontal-parietal control network (FPCN), driven specifically by the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and amygdala Hubs of Dysfunction. Further, this relationship was uniquely moderated by executive function (EF). Specifically, those with PTSD and impaired EF had the strongest marker of LN-FPCN dysregulation, while those with above-average EF did not exhibit PTSD-related dysregulation of these networks.
These results suggest that poor executive functioning, alongside LN-FPCN dysregulation, may represent a neurocognitive subtype of PTSD.
The goal of the present study was to investigate the association between PTSD and the onset of hypertension in previously normotensive individuals in a population living in the stressful environment of the urban slums while controlling for risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Participants were 320 normotensive individuals who lived in slums and were attending a family doctor program. Measurements included a questionnaire covering sociodemographic characteristics, clinical status and life habits, the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist – Civilian Version, and the Beck Depression Inventory. Incident hypertension was defined as the first occurrence at the follow-up review of the medical records of (1) systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher, (2) the participant started taking antihypertensive medication, or (3) a new diagnosis of hypertension made by a physician. Differences in sociodemographic, clinical, and lifestyle characteristics between hypertensive and non-hypertensive individuals were compared using the χ2 and t tests. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Six variables – age, educational level, body mass, smoking, diabetes, and PTSD diagnosis – showed a statistically significant (p ≤ 0.20) association with the hypertensive status. In the Cox regression, only PTSD diagnosis was significantly associated with incident hypertension (multivariate HR = 1.94; 95% CI 1.11–3.40).
The present findings highlight the importance of considering a diagnostic hypothesis of PTSD in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
As one of the most widely researched consequence of traumatic events, the prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms among people exposed to the trauma resulting from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak varies greatly across studies. This review aimed at examining the pooled prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms among people exposed to the trauma resulting from COVID-19 outbreak.
Systematic searches of databases were conducted for literature published on PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, PsycArticle, and Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure until October 14, 2020. Statistical analyses were performed using R software (PROSPERO registration number: CRD42020180309).
A total of 106,713 people exposed to the trauma resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak were identified in the 76 articles, of which 33,810 were reported with post-traumatic stress symptoms. The pooled prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms among people exposed to the trauma resulting from COVID-19 outbreak was 28.34%, with a 95% confidence interval of 23.03-34.32%. Subgroup analysis indicated that older age, male and bigger sample size were associated with higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms. After controlling for other factors, the results of meta-regression showed that the influence of gender and sample size on prevalence is no longer significant.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were very common among people exposed to the trauma resulting from COVID-19 outbreak. Further research is needed to explore more possible risk factors for post-traumatic stress symptoms and identify effective strategies for preventing PTSD-related symptoms among people exposed to the trauma resulting from COVID-19 outbreak.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and impulsive aggression are linked to transdiagnostic neurocognitive deficits. This includes impaired inhibitory control over inappropriate responses. Prior studies showed that inhibitory control can be improved by modulating the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in combination with inhibitory control training. However, its clinical potential remains unclear. We therefore aimed to replicate a tDCS-enhanced inhibitory control training in a clinical sample and test whether this reduces stress-related mental health symptoms.
In a preregistered double-blind randomized-controlled trial, 100 active-duty military personnel and post-active veterans with PTSD, anxiety, or impulsive aggression symptoms underwent a 5-session intervention where a stop-signal response inhibition training was combined with anodal tDCS over the right IFG for 20 min at 1.25 mA. Inhibitory control was evaluated with the emotional go/no-go task and implicit association test. Stress-related symptoms were assessed by self-report at baseline, post-intervention, and after 3-months and 1-year follow-ups.
Active relative to sham tDCS neither influenced performance during inhibitory control training nor on assessment tasks, and did also not significantly influence self-reported symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, impulsive aggression, or depression at post-assessment or follow-up.
Our results do not support the idea that anodal tDCS over the right IFG at 1.25 mA enhances response inhibition training in a clinical sample, or that this tDCS-training combination can reduce stress-related symptoms. Applying different tDCS parameters or combining tDCS with more challenging tasks might provide better conditions to modulate cognitive functioning and stress-related symptoms.
Problems in learning that sights, sounds, or situations that were once associated with danger have become safe (extinction learning) may explain why some individuals suffer prolonged psychological distress following traumatic experiences. Although simple learning models have been unable to provide a convincing account of why this learning fails, it has recently been proposed that this may be explained by individual differences in beliefs about the causal structure of the environment.
Here, we tested two competing hypotheses as to how differences in causal inference might be related to trauma-related psychopathology, using extinction learning data collected from clinically well-characterised individuals with varying degrees of post-traumatic stress (N = 56). Model parameters describing individual differences in causal inference were related to multiple post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptom dimensions via network analysis.
Individuals with more severe PTSD were more likely to assign observations from conditioning and extinction stages to a single underlying cause. Specifically, greater re-experiencing symptom severity was associated with a lower likelihood of inferring that multiple causes were active in the environment.
We interpret these results as providing evidence of a primary deficit in discriminative learning in participants with more severe PTSD. Specifically, a tendency to attribute a greater diversity of stimulus configurations to the same underlying cause resulted in greater uncertainty about stimulus-outcome associations, impeding learning both that certain stimuli were safe, and that certain stimuli were no longer dangerous. In the future, better understanding of the role of causal inference in trauma-related psychopathology may help refine cognitive therapies for these disorders.
Eye-tracking-based attentional research implicates sustained attention to threat in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, most of this research employed small stimuli set-sizes, small samples that did not include both trauma-exposed healthy participants and non-trauma-exposed participants, and generally failed to report the reliability of used tasks and attention indices. Here, using an established eye-tracking paradigm, we explore attention processes to different negatively-valenced cues in PTSD while addressing these limitations.
PTSD patients (n = 37), trauma-exposed healthy controls (TEHC; n = 34), and healthy controls (HC; n = 30) freely viewed three blocks of 30 different matrices of faces, each presented for 6 s. Each block consisted of matrices depicting eight negatively-valenced faces (anger, fear, or sadness) and eight neutral faces. Gaze patterns on negative and neural areas of interest were compared. Internal consistency and test-retest reliability were evaluated for the entire sample and within groups.
The two trauma-exposed groups dwelled longer on negatively-valenced faces over neutral faces, while HC participants showed the opposite pattern. This attentional bias was more prominent in the PTSD than the TEHC group. Similar results emerged for first-fixation dwell time, but with no differences between the two trauma-exposed groups. No group differences emerged for first-fixation latency or location. Internal consistency and 1-week test-retest reliability were adequate, across and within groups.
Sustained attention on negatively-valenced stimuli emerges as a potential target for therapeutic intervention in PTSD designed to divert attention away from negatively-valenced stimuli and toward neutral ones.
An article in BJPsych Advances on the topic of dissociative identity disorder gave rise to a number of linked commentaries and a vigorous eLetter debate. This commentary, by the Editor, points out the journal's role as a CPD journal and clarifies its position on the publication of reviews and opinion pieces on controversial topics.
Beginning with the ritual treatment of the returning warrior in ancient and classical cultures, this essay moves to the early modern era, where increasingly, the combatant’s immersion into mass killing and wounding becomes for most individuals an aberration, an out of life experience. It then considers modern, industrialized, mass-destruction warfare, turning to the notable literary and popular culture depictions of the American soldier of the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. It concludes with the literary and popular culture representations of the Vietnam War, and the Desert Wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, when the condition broadly diagnosed as “PTSD” – "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” – comes to be associated with the late-twentieth and early twenty-first-century returning combatant as the signature malady of our times.
Moral injury is the profound psychological distress that can arise following participating in, or witnessing, events that transgress an individual’s morals and include harming, betraying, or failure to help others, or being subjected to such events, e.g. being betrayed by leaders. It has been primarily researched in the military, but it also found in other professionals such as healthcare workers coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and civilians following a wide range of traumas. In this article, we describe how to use cognitive therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (CT-PTSD) to treat patients presenting with moral injury-related PTSD. We outline the key techniques involved in CT-PTSD and describe their application to treating patients with moral injury-related PTSD. A case study of a healthcare worker is presented to illustrate the treatment interventions.
Key learning aims
(1) To recognise moral injury where it arises alongside PTSD.
(2) To understand how Ehlers and Clark’s cognitive model of PTSD can be applied to moral injury.
(3) To be able to apply cognitive therapy for PTSD to patients with moral injury-related PTSD.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can manifest several years after trauma exposure, and may impact everyday life even longer. Military deployment can put soldiers at increased risk for developing PTSD symptoms. Longitudinal evaluations of PTSD symptoms in deployed military personnel are essential for mapping the long-term psychological burden of recent operations on our service members, and may improve current practice in veterans’ mental health care.
The current study examined PTSD symptoms and associated risk factors in a cohort of Dutch Afghanistan veterans 10 years after homecoming. Participants (N = 963) were assessed seven times from predeployment up to 10 years after deployment. Growth mixture modeling was used to identify distinct trajectories of PTSD symptom development.
The probable PTSD prevalence at 10 years after deployment was 8%. Previously identified risk factors like younger age, lower rank, more deployment stressors, and less social support were still relevant 10 years after deployment. Four trajectories of PTSD symptom development were identified: resilient (85%), improved (6%), severely elevated-recovering (2%), and delayed onset (7%). Only the delayed onset group reported increasing symptom levels between 5 and 10 years postdeployment, even though 77% reported seeking help.
This study provides insights into the long-term burden of deployment on the psychological health of military service members. It identifies a group of veterans with further increasing PTSD symptoms that does not seem to improve from currently available mental health support, and underlines the urgent need for developing and implementing alternative treatment opportunities for this group.