Towards an exposure-dependent model of post-traumatic stress

shutterstock_232886320
Imagine sitting at your desk at work, on a Friday afternoon, just waiting for the weekend to begin. Then; a loud bang, the walls are shaking, your office windows shatter. With ears ringing, you crawl out into the corridor. The guy in the office next to yours is hurt. His shirt is covered in blood. You help him down the stairs. There’s smoke and dust everywhere. By the main entrance you pass someone who is beyond help.

Or; you are on summer holiday, relaxing at the family cottage. Suddenly, your husband calls out, telling you to come and watch the news. On the TV you see pictures from the bombed-out office building where you normally spend your workdays. You try to remember; who among your colleagues is on holiday this week? And who is at work, now possibly dead or injured? You immediately call a colleague; all she can tell you is that a bomb has gone off. No one knows what to do next.

On July 22nd 2011, these scenarios sadly became reality when a right-wing extremist triggered a car bomb in the executive government quarters in Oslo, Norway. Several office buildings were severely damaged in the blast. Luckily, as the terror attack happened on a Friday afternoon in July, a lot of people were on holiday or had gone home for the day. Still, 8 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. The Norwegian nation was in shock.

In a new study published in Psychological Medicine, researchers at the Norwegian Centre of Violence and Traumatic Stress have examined patterns of post-traumatic stress reactions (from approx. 10 months to 3 years after the attack) in the government employees who were or were not present at work at the time of this terrible attack. What they found might hold an important key to our understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder.

For government employees who were at work that fateful day, anxiety provoking intrusive memories from the incident seem to be the main driver behind prolonged stress. Together these primary symptoms seem to work as the “psychological engine” behind the development of other common post-traumatic stress reactions, in some cases (24%), creating the complex, heterogeneous post-traumatic stress symptomatology we see in sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, for the indirectly exposed employees (those who were on holiday or had gone home) dysphoric arousal (sleeping difficulties, irritability and problems concentrating) emerged as the best predictors of prolonged symptom severity. Although present in their symptomatology, intrusions of that fateful day do not include the same horrific details (e.g. smoke, blood, fire), and therefore do not seem to provoke the same anxious arousal. Instead a sequel of dysphoric arousal and emotional numbing, possibly related to depressive symptoms or negative affect, seem to emerge.

Why is this difference important?

This difference is important because it adds important empirical clues to contemporary theories that help us understand the development and chronicity of post-traumatic stress disorder. And in turn, it sheds light on how to treat sufferers of this debilitating disorder.

The full paper, “Towards an exposure-dependent model of post-traumatic stress: longitudinal course of post-traumatic stress symptomatology and functional impairment after the 2011 Oslo bombing” by Ø. Solberg, M. S. Birkeland, I. Blix, M. B. Hansen and T. Heir can be viewed here free of charge for a limited time

Advertisements

Danish Suicide Prevention Clinics prevent more than deaths by suicide

shutterstock_153723518

This post was written by Johannes Birkbak and Annette Erlangsen.

A new Danish study finds that psychosocial therapy for suicide prevention does more than preventing deaths by suicide. The treatment also reduces risk of death by other causes.

Mental and physical well-being are interrelated. People at risk of suicide have a considerably increased risk of dying, not only by suicide, but also by other causes of death.

A group of Danish researchers examined causes of death among nearly 6,000 persons who, following an episode of deliberate self-harm, received psychosocial therapy at one of the Danish Suicide Prevention Clinics. The group who received the intervention was compared to people receiving standard care following an episode of deliberate self-harm. Psychosocial therapy was associated with a 37% decrease in alcohol-related deaths as well as in deaths due to injuries and accidents. The risk of dying by a heterogeneous group of medical causes was reduced by 39%, while the risk of dying by suicide was reduced by 28%.

“This is the first European study to show improvements in mortality among persons who have received psychosocial therapy after deliberate self-harm. While we knew that the treatment in the Suicide Prevention Clinics does more than prevent suicidal behavior, we found it important to uncover what additional causes of death were prevented by the intervention,” says Johannes Birkbak, M.D., from the Danish Research Institute of Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Centre Copenhagen.

In conjunction with other research in this area, the results indicate that psychosocial therapy might enable patients to revise their coping strategies and, as a possible result, improve their general lifestyle, which might explain the mortality reductions.


About the study:

The study compares 5,678 people who received psychosocial therapy at a Suicide Prevention Clinic after an episode of deliberate self-harm with people who received standard care following an episode of deliberate self-harm. The multi-center study enrolled users from seven of the regional Suicide Prevention Clinics in Denmark during 1992-2011.

Using data from the national Danish registers, the researchers followed the treatment group and the control group for up to 20 years, and all deaths and causes of death were registered.

Given that the study evaluated an already established intervention after self-harm, it was not possible to randomise the patients. To account for this, a comparison group was selected to match the treatment group on 31 different factors using propensity score matching. The treatment group and the control group are comparable on factors such as age, sex, social background and clinical factors.

The study found that psychosocial therapy was associated with reduced risk of death by suicide, injuries and accidents, mental disorders, alcohol-related causes as well as a group of heterogeneous medical causes. Deaths caused by cancer and diseases of the circulatory system were not significantly reduced.

The study was designed and carried out by the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention.

The full paper “Psychosocial therapy and causes of death after deliberate self-harm: a register-based, nationwide multicentre study using propensity score matching” by Johannes Birkbak, Elizabeth A Stuart, Bertel Dam Lind, Ping Qin, Elsebeth Stenager, Kim Juul Larsen, August G Wang, Ann Colleen Nielsen, Christian Møller Pedersen, Jan-Henrik Winsløv, Charlotte Langhoff, Charlotte Mühlmann, Merete Nordentoft, Annette Erlangsen can be read free of charge for a limited time here.

Medicalisation of young minds: new study reveals 28% rise in antidepressant prescribing amongst 6-18 year olds « Swansea University

shutterstock_165510029
Antidepressant prescribing amongst children and young people has shown a significant increase of 28% in the past decade, even though recorded diagnoses of depression have gone down, according to new research published today.

One in ten children and young people suffer from some kind of mental health problem, including depression and anxiety. Concerns about under-diagnosis and under-treatment contrast with worries about over-prescribing and the medicalisation of unhappiness in young people.

The research, published in Psychological Medicine, and carried out by a team which included several Swansea University experts, was led by Ann John, associate professor at Swansea University Medical School, who is also a qualified GP. The team looked at data from 358,000 registered patients between 6 and 18 years old, living in Wales, UK, between 2003 and 2013. The data was drawn from GPs and other NHS primary care services.

The research found that:
• Antidepressant prescribing rose significantly, by 28%, mainly in older adolescents
• Depression diagnoses showed a steady decline by just over a quarter, while symptoms of depression more than doubled
• Unlicensed citalopram prescribing occurs outside current guidelines, despite its known toxicity in overdose
• Just over half of new antidepressant prescriptions were associated with depression. The rest were associated with diagnoses such as anxiety and pain

The findings led the researchers to call for new strategies to implement current guidance for managing depression in children and young people.

Dr Ann John, associate professor at Swansea University Medical School, said: “These findings add to the growing debate over increasing prescribing of anti-depressants to children and young people.

The main issue is whether they being prescribed with enough cause. The rise in prescribing may reflect a genuine increase in depression and its symptoms, or increased awareness and better treatment by GPs, or poor access to psychological therapies and specialist care, or even increased help-seeking.

Whatever the explanation it’s important that each individual young person is listened to and gets the right kind of help for their problem. We need to support those who support young people and their families, helping them to act in keeping with current guidance.”

Dr John underlined the importance of responding appropriately to the needs of young people:

“The teenage years are a phase of gaining independence, engaging with the world and testing boundaries. This can result in a normal developmental range of emotional responses- stress, loneliness, sadness and frustration. For others the mental health issues are more serious, and historically they were often not recognised, talked about or treated.

Teenagers may be moving into adulthood without many of the skills necessary to deal with these issues if we don’t manage them well at an early age.

It can be hard to distinguish between what is emotional turmoil and what warrants a mental health diagnosis in a young person.

We need to ensure GPs are trained to really understand the lives and moods of young people, as well as knowing what warning signs they should look out for. For some young people reassurance that this is within the range of normal human experience may be appropriate. For others, talking therapies may be the best option, as they have a proven track record of improving symptoms for those with mild and moderate depression.
In more serious cases, anti-depressants should be used together with talking therapies. Improving access to talking therapies is very important. Otherwise, if waiting times are too long, it’s more likely that a prescription will be given. If an antidepressant is required, fluoxetine should be the first option.”

via Swansea University – Medicalisation of young minds: new study reveals 28% rise in antidepressant prescribing amongst 6-18 year olds

The full paper, published in Psychological Medicine, “Recent trends in primary-care antidepressant prescribing to children and young people: an e-cohort study” by A. John, A. L. Marchant, D. L. Fone, J. I. McGregor, M. S. Dennis, J. O. A. Tan and K. Lloyd has been published Open Access and can be viewed here free of charge.

Researchers find lifestyle link in depression

shutterstock_72027346
Researchers following the progress of 1200 people for five years have found strong links between unhealthy lifestyles and depression.

Researchers at the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research studied the impact of lifestyle on depression and the impact of depression on lifestyle. This is the first time the association has been looked at from both sides.

The lead author of the study, Dr Seana Gall, said that people with healthier lifestyles at the beginning of the study were significantly less likely (22%) to develop a first episode of depression over the five years, while there was a tendency for those with a history of depression to lose points in a lifestyle assessment over the five years (46% more likely than those without a history of depression at the beginning of the study). Lifestyles were assessed through a score comprising body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure time, physical activity and diet.

These associations occurred regardless of other predictive factors such as socio-economic position, parental and marital status, social support, major life events, cardiovascular disease history and self-rated physical health.

Participants were aged 26-36 years at the beginning of the study (2004-2006) and 31-41 years at follow-up (2009-2011).

Dr Gall said the study’s grouping of health behaviours (i.e. the overall lifestyle) rather than looking at individual risk factors was significant. “This is the first study to consider the association between this number of health behaviours and risk of developing depression over time,” Dr Gall said. “Studying individual risk factors and their relationship with depression ignores the fact that risk factors often cluster as unhealthy lifestyles.

“Our findings have implications for reducing the higher risk of cardiovascular disease that is seen in those with depression and also potentially reducing the risk of developing depression in young people” Dr Gall said. “The study highlights the need for holistic management of young adults in terms of their mental and physical health, including health behaviours.

Dr Gall said the results suggested that a healthier lifestyle may protect against the first onset of depression and therefore the findings were relevant for those managing the physical and mental health of younger adults.

 

via University of Tasmania – Researchers find lifestyle link in depression

 

The full paper, published in Psychological Medicine, “Bi-directional associations between healthy lifestyles and mood disorders in young adults: The Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study” by S. L. Gall, K. Sanderson, K. J. Smith, G. Patton, T. Dwyer and A. Venn can be viewed here free of charge until 30th August 2016.

 

Early screening spots emergency workers at greater risk of mental illness

Ambulance

Study offers new direction for preventative interventions to increase mental resilience to stress and trauma

Emergency services workers who are more likely to suffer episodes of mental ill health later in their careers can be spotted in the first week of training. That’s the conclusion of a Wellcome Trust funded study carried out with trainee paramedics.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and King’s College London wanted to see if they could identify risk factors that made people more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress (PTSD) or major depression (MD) when working in emergency services. Their results are published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Dr Jennifer Wild from the University of Oxford explained: ‘Emergency workers are regularly exposed to stressful and traumatic situations and some of them will experience periods of mental illness. Some of the factors that make that more likely can be changed through resilience training, reducing the risk of PTSD and depression. We wanted to test whether we could identify such risk factors, making it possible to spot people at higher risk early in their training and to develop interventions that target these risk factors to strengthen their resilience.’

The researchers followed a group of around 400 new ambulance staff through the first two years of their three-year training period. During the initial six-week classroom phase of the training, the students were given a number of assessments to establish their thinking styles, coping behaviour, psychiatric history and personality traits.

Follow up sessions were carried out every four months for the next two years to see if any of the participants had had PTSD or depression. After two years, a final assessment looked at quality of life, as well as smoking, alcohol and drug use, days off work, weight change, burnout and insomnia.

Professor Anke Ehlers said: ‘While just under one in five experienced PTSD or depression in the two years, most got better by the next four-month follow-up.

‘However, there were still lasting effects. Those who had reported mental ill health were more likely to have sleep problems at 2 years. They were also more likely to have days off work. Paramedics who developed an episode of PTSD were also more likely to report gaining weight and smoking.’

The team found that even accounting for past psychiatric history, people were more likely to experience PTSD and depression if they had lower perceived resilience to trauma, or if they dwelled on stressful events from the past before they started their training.   Significantly, the number of traumatic incidents they experienced could not be used to predict PTSD but was relevant to predicting MD, suggesting a cumulative risk of different exposures to trauma for depression.

Dr Wild said: ‘This is not about screening out particular people in training. Early assessment means that those who are more at risk can be offered training to improve their resilience to stressful and traumatic experiences. That has the potential to reduce episodes of PTSD and major depression and improve the long term health of a valued and essential workforce.’

The full paper has been published Open Access in Psychological Medicine, ‘A prospective study of pre-trauma risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression’ by  J. Wild et al. can be viewed here free of charge.

Source: Early screening spots emergency workers at greater risk of mental illness- University of Oxford/News

Emotion-processing networks disrupted in sufferers of depression – via UIC News Center

depressed teenage girl

Regions of the brain that normally work together to process emotion become decoupled in people who experience multiple episodes of depression, neuroscientists report. The findings may help identify which patients will benefit from longterm antidepressant treatment to prevent the recurrence of depressive episodes.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

“Half of people who have a first depressive episode will go on to have another within two years,” says Scott Langenecker, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at UIC and corresponding author on the study.

Disruptions in the network of areas of the brain that are simultaneously active during problem-solving and emotional processing have been implicated in several mental illnesses, including depression. But in addition, “hyperconnectivity,” or too much connection, within the “resting network,” or areas active during rest and self-reflection, has also been linked to depression.

“If we can identify different network connectivity patterns that are associated with depression, then we may be able to determine which are risk factors for poorer outcomes down the line, such as having multiple episodes, and we can keep those patients on preventive or maintenance medication,” Langenecker explained. “We can also start to see what medications work best for people with different connectivity patterns, to develop more personalized treatment plans.”

In previous research, Langenecker found that the emotional and cognitive brain networks were hyperconnected in young adults who had depression. Areas of the brain related to rumination – thinking about the same thing over and over again – a known risk factor for depression, were also overly connected in adolescents who had experienced depression.

In the new study, Langenecker said he and his coworkers wanted to see if different patterns of network-disruption would show up in young adults who had experienced only one episode of depression versus several episodes.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to scan the brains of 77 young adults (average age: 21.) Seventeen of the participants were experiencing major depression at the time of the scan, while 34 were currently well. Of these 51 patients, 36 had experienced at least one episode of depression in the past, and these individuals were compared  to 26 participants who had never experienced a major depressive episode. None were taking psychiatric medication at the time they were scanned.

All fMRI scans were done in a resting state — to show which areas of the brain are most synchronously active as one relaxes and lets their mind wander.

The researchers found that the amygdala, a region involved in detecting emotion, is decoupled from the emotional network in people who have had multiple episodes of depression. This may cause emotional-information processing to be less accurate, Langenecker said, and could explain “negative processing-bias”  in which depression sufferers perceive even neutral information as negative.

The researchers also saw that participants who had had at least one prior depressive episode — whether or not they were depressed at the time of the scan — exhibited increased connectivity between the resting and cognitive networks.

“This may be an adaptation the brain makes to help regulate emotional biases or rumination,” Langenecker said.

“Since this study provides just a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, longer-term studies are needed, to determine whether the patterns we saw may be predictive of a future of multiple episodes for some patients and might help us identify who should have maintenance treatments and targets for new preventive treatments,” he said.

Rachel Jacobs, Alyssa Barba, Jennifer Gowins, Heide Klumpp, Lisanne Jenkins, Dr. Olusola Ajilore and Dr. K. Luan Phan of the UIC College of Medicine, and Dr. Brian Mickey, Dr. Marta Pecina, Margaret Sikora, Kelly Ryan, David Hsu, Robert Welsh and Jon-Kar Zubieta of the University of Michigan are co-authors on the paper.

This study was funded in part by the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science and grants RO1 Q2 601, MH091811 and RO1 MH101487 from the National Institutes of Health. – See more at: http://news.uic.edu/emotion-processing-networks-disrupted-in-sufferers-of-depression#sthash.2snQXaQd.dpuf

Source: Emotion-processing networks disrupted in sufferers of depression | UIC News Center

The full paper, published in Psychological Medicine, “Decoupling of the amygdala to other salience network regions in adolescent-onset recurrent major depressive disorder” by  S. A. Langenecker et al. can be viewed here free of charge until 31st March 2016.

Community social cohesion may help improve child and adolescent mental health and behaviour

neighbours_shutterstock_170342222_credit
Have you ever borrowed a cup of sugar from a neighbour? Would you trust them to keep an eye on your child while playing outside? New research indicates that the degree of social cohesion, or ‘neighbourliness’, of a community may have long-term consequences for children’s mental health and social adjustment.

The neighbourhood environment has well-documented effects on individual health and wellbeing, including mental health. Living in an unsafe or unstable neighbourhood can lead to adverse health outcomes including depression, anxiety, and substance use. On the other hand, cohesive neighbourhoods (those which provide social support, trust, and a sense of community among residents) are thought to contribute positively to residents’ mental health.

In a new study published in Psychological Medicine, researchers at the University of Ottawa and University College London examined patterns of neighbourhood cohesion across childhood (from toddlerhood to preadolescence), and linked these patterns to several different mental health and behavioural outcomes in early adolescence (age 12-15).

Living in low-cohesion neighbourhoods throughout childhood, they found, was associated with increased anxious and depressive symptoms, as well as greater social aggression (e.g., malicious gossip, excluding peers) in adolescence. Declining neighbourhood cohesion from early to late childhood was associated with greater symptoms of hyperactivity, whereas improvements in neighbourhood cohesion were associated with reduced hyperactivity and social aggression. Those in highly cohesive neighbourhoods in early childhood were more likely to engage in prosocial behaviour.

These results suggest that efforts to improve community social cohesion may help improve child and adolescent mental health and behaviour. Higher social cohesion may increase a child’s level of interaction with teachers and other adults in the community, as well as with other neighbourhood children, all of which may contribute to advances in social and emotional development.

The full paper, published in Psychological Medicine, “Trajectories of childhood neighbourhood cohesion and adolescent mental health: evidence from a national Canadian cohort” by M. Kingsbury, J. B. Kirkbride, S. E. McMartin, M. E. Wickham, M. Weeks and I. Colman is can be viewed here free of charge until 31st August 2015 .

%d bloggers like this: