PTSD – Psych Central News https://psychcentral.com/news Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday. Thu, 06 Aug 2020 06:12:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 182837088 Drug Overdose May Lead to PTSD Symptoms https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/08/06/drug-overdose-may-lead-to-ptsd-symptoms/158643.html Thu, 06 Aug 2020 11:00:27 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=158643 Surviving or witnessing a drug overdose is a psychologically traumatic event that can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new Johns Hopkins study of female...

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Surviving or witnessing a drug overdose is a psychologically traumatic event that can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new Johns Hopkins study of female sex workers.

The study of 380 sex workers in Baltimore City revealed that more than one-half reported symptoms of PTSD within the first six months after experiencing or witnessing an overdose and after accounting for other traumas they may have experienced.

The findings, published online in the International Journal of Drug Policy, could help inform overdose treatment programs, which typically focus on reducing physical harms but largely avoid addressing mental health outcomes.

“Largely the treatment for overdose has been focused on saving lives. That’s incredibly important, and it should be the first priority,” said Kristin Schneider, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow at the Bloomberg School and the paper’s first author. “But in addition to physical harms, we should also be addressing the enormous psychological harms that accompany overdose to help people fully recover from the trauma in their lives.”

Overdose is currently the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S., exceeding vehicle crashes and firearms as the opioid crisis continues to grow. By itself the fatality statistic doesn’t capture the full picture of the overdose crisis.

“For every overdose fatality, there are even more non-fatal overdoses,” Schneider said. “It’s been unclear what mental health toll these events take on survivors and witnesses, particularly in the vulnerable and marginalized populations that overdose often affects. These findings suggest the consequences are not insignificant.”

For the study, the researchers looked at data from Enabling Mobilization, Empowerment, Risk Reduction, and Lasting Dignity (EMERALD), a long-running study of female sex workers in Baltimore City.

The researchers also recruited 380 female sex workers to answer questions on a tablet in a mobile van. These questions covered a variety of topics, including participants’ demographic characteristics, sex work history, drug use, overdose experiences, mental health symptomology, police interactions, and drug- and sexual-risk behaviors. The study data cover responses from September 2017 to January 2019.

Participants were asked if they had experienced an overdose themselves or witnessed a fatal or non-fatal overdose in the past six months.

They also answered a 20-item questionnaire that evaluates PTSD symptoms in four separate domains outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DMS-5). These include:

  • intrusion, which involves re-experiencing the event through unwanted memories, nightmare, or flashbacks;
  • avoidance, which includes intentionally trying to avoid trauma-related thoughts, feelings, and external reminders;
  • cognition/mood, which involves negative thoughts and feelings that were brought on or worsened by a trauma;
  • and arousal/reactivity symptoms, which involve irritability, aggression, and hypervigilance.

The findings reveal that more than half of the participants had recently witnessed an overdose, with close to a third witnessing a fatal overdose and about half witnessing a non-fatal overdose. Nearly one in three participants had experienced a recent overdose themselves. More than half (199 participants) met the cutoff for a provisional diagnosis of PTSD using the criteria from the 20-item questionnaire. Most participants reported symptoms in each PTSD domain.

The findings show that even after accounting for other types of traumas experienced by this population — for example, two-thirds of these women had been homeless in the past six months, two-thirds had gone hungry at least once a week, 44% reported client violence, and 22% reported intimate partner violence — overdose trauma was still closely linked with PTSD symptoms.

Although experiencing an overdose was linked to symptoms in all four domains, witnessing an overdose was associated with intrusive and arousal/reactivity domains.

“Existing measures for PTSD don’t always accurately represent the effects of overdose traumas on populations that have high rates of cumulative trauma, like street-based female sex workers,” said co-author Susan Sherman, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society and principal investigator of the EMERALD study.

“The traumas of witnessing and experiencing an overdose often add to a history of trauma, such that in addition to having an impact, overdoses can be triggering.”

In addition, Sherman adds, the effects of some drugs such as cocaine and other stimulants can mimic the agitation of the arousal/reactivity domain.

The authors say that linking overdose trauma to PTSD could help guide new treatment paradigms for overdose that are focused on harm reduction — not just for those who experience overdose themselves, but for witnesses, who are increasingly becoming first responders in overdose events.

Source: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Veterans’ Service Dogs Most Commonly Ease Anxiety https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/07/28/veterans-service-dogs-most-commonly-ease-anxiety/158443.html Tue, 28 Jul 2020 11:30:58 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=158443 How do service dogs help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? A new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found that the most important and most commonly performed...

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How do service dogs help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? A new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found that the most important and most commonly performed task involved the dog disrupting the veteran’s anxiety episodes.

While previous studies have shown that service dogs can benefit some veterans with PTSD, it has remained unclear the exact role they play in their day-to-day lives.

“There has been some debate on what kind of training PTSD service dogs need to be effective and how their assistance may be different than what a pet dog can provide,” said Kerri Rodriguez, a human-animal interaction graduate student at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and a lead author on the study.

“This study suggests that veterans are, in fact, using and benefiting from the specific trained tasks, which sets these dogs apart from pet dogs or emotional support dogs.”

Rodriguez led the work with Dr. Maggie O’Haire, associate professor of human-animal interaction.

The study was conducted in cooperation with K9s For Warriors, with support and funding from Merrick Pet Care, and is in preparation for an ongoing large-scale clinical trial that is studying veterans with and without service dogs over an extended period of time.

The researchers found that, on average, the dogs’ training to both alert the veteran to any increasing anxiety and to provide physical contact during anxiety episodes were the most important and most often used tasks in a typical day. Veterans with a service dog also rated all of the service dog’s trained tasks as being “moderately” to “quite a bit” important for their PTSD.

Some tasks include picking up on cues veterans exhibit when experiencing distress or anxiety and consequently nudging, pawing or licking them to encourage the veteran to focus on the dog. The service dogs also are trained to notice when veterans are experiencing anxiety at night and will actively wake up the person from nightmares.

The dogs also are trained to perform tasks in public, such as looking the opposite way in a crowded room or store to provide a sense of security for the veteran.

The findings also show that trained service dog tasks were used on average 3.16 times per day, with individual tasks ranging from an average of 1.36 to 5.05 times per day.

Earlier work led by Rodriguez shows that the bond between a service dog and the veteran is a significant factor in the importance of untrained behaviors. Although all trained tasks were reported to be important for veterans’ PTSD, those with a service dog actually rated the importance of untrained behaviors higher than the importance of trained tasks.

This suggests that there are some therapeutic aspects of the service dog’s companionship that are helping just as much, if not more, than the dog’s trained tasks, Rodriguez said.

“These service dogs offer valuable companionship, provide joy and happiness, and add structure and routine to veterans’ lives that are likely very important for veterans’ PTSD.”

The study surveyed 216 veterans from K9s For Warriors, including 134 with a service dog and 82 on the waitlist. The research complements a paper published last year that focused specifically on the service dogs’ training, behavior and the human-animal bond.

While service dogs were reported to help a number of specific PTSD symptoms such as having nightmares, experiencing flashbacks, or being hyper-aware in public, there were some symptoms that service dogs did not help, such as amnesia and risk-taking.

“Both this research, as well as other related studies on PTSD service dogs, suggest that service dogs are not a standalone cure for PTSD,” O’Haire said.

“Rather, there appear to be specific areas of veterans’ lives that a PTSD service dog can help as a complementary intervention to other evidence-based treatments for PTSD.”

Veterans on the waitlist to receive a service dog expected the service dog’s trained tasks to be more important for their PTSD and used more frequently on a daily basis than what was reported by veterans who already had a service dog.

“Veterans on the waitlist may have higher expectations for a future PTSD service dog because of feelings of hope and excitement, which may not necessarily be a bad thing,” Rodriguez said. “However, it is important for mental health professionals to encourage realistic expectations to veterans who are considering getting a PTSD service dog of their own.”

Source: Purdue University

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Traumatic Experiences Can Be Seen in the Eyes https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/07/19/traumatic-experiences-can-be-seen-in-the-eyes/158229.html Sun, 19 Jul 2020 12:00:30 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=158229 A new Welsh study suggests that a person’s pupils may reveal if they have experienced a traumatic event in the past. The findings show that the pupils of people with...

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A new Welsh study suggests that a person’s pupils may reveal if they have experienced a traumatic event in the past.

The findings show that the pupils of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) grow larger in response to emotional stimuli than those without PTSD. In addition, when PTSD patients are faced with any high-level emotional stimulation — even positive emotions like an exciting sports event — it can immediately trigger the body’s threat system.

PTSD can occur when a person has experienced a traumatic event such as a car crash, combat stress, or abuse. They can be left with a greater sensitivity, or hyperarousal, to everyday events and an inability to switch off and relax.

The researchers say that clinicians should understand the effects of even positive emotional stimuli on people with PTSD in order to give their patients more ways to overcome the significant challenges they face.

The study, led by Dr. Aimee McKinnon at Cardiff University in Wales, looked for traces of these traumatic events in the eyes of patients who were suffering from PTSD. The team accomplished this by measuring the pupil of the eye while participants were shown threatening images such as vicious animals or weapons, as well as other images that showed neutral events, or even pleasant images.

The researchers found that the responses of people with PTSD were different than those of other people, including individuals who had been traumatized but did not have PTSD.

At first the PTSD participants’ pupils failed to show the normal sharp constriction that is caused by changes in light level — but then their pupils grew even larger to the emotional stimuli than for the other participants.

Another unexpected finding was that pupils of the patients with PTSD not only showed the exaggerated response to threatening stimuli, but also to stimuli that depicted “positive” images, such as exciting sports scenes.

Swansea University’s Professor Nicola Gray, who co-authored the paper along with Professor Robert Snowden of Cardiff University, believes this is an important finding.

“This shows that the hyper-response of the pupil is in response to any arousing stimulus, and not just threatening ones,”said Gray.

“This may allow us to use these positive pictures in therapy, rather than relying upon negative images, that can be quite upsetting to the patient, and therefore make therapy more acceptable and bearable. This idea now needs testing empirically before it is put into clinical practice.”

McKinnon, who is now at Oxford University, added: “These findings allow us to understand that people with PTSD are automatically primed for threat and fear responses in any uncertain emotional context, and to consider what a burden this must be to them in everyday life.”

“It also suggests that it is important for us to recognise that, in therapy, it is not just the fear-based stimuli that need deliberately re-appraising.”

“If someone with PTSD is faced with any high-level of emotional stimulation, even if this is positive emotion, it can immediately trigger the threat system. Clinicians need to understand this impact of positive stimuli in order to support their service-users overcome the significant challenges they face.”

The study is published in the journal Biological Psychology.

Source: Swansea University

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Community & Police Partnership Can Help Kids Who Witness Parental Violence https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/07/18/community-police-partnership-can-help-kids-who-witness-parental-violence/158002.html Sun, 19 Jul 2020 00:29:44 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=158002 An innovative police and community-based partnership, called the Child Trauma Response Team, was shown to be successful at screening and treating children for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) immediately after witnessing...

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An innovative police and community-based partnership, called the Child Trauma Response Team, was shown to be successful at screening and treating children for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) immediately after witnessing intimate partner violence, according to a new study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

“Families that experience poverty, social disadvantage and structural racism are at a higher risk for severe intimate partner violence, but those same factors are also barriers to accessing the post-trauma support offered by community-based organizations,” said Amanda Stylianou, an expert on domestic violence and health outcomes at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.

More than 7 million children in the U.S. are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, which can impact their development, mental health, physical health and functioning as adults, Stylianou said.

To better understand how to improve PTSD screening and treatment of children and their caregivers after witnessing these incidents, Stylianou and her research team looked at 244 families with 352 children in Harlem being served by Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest crime victim organization, through the New York City Child Trauma Response Team (CTRT) over the initial one-year pilot.

The results show that families who received an immediate CTRT response, including victim safety assessments, were three times more likely to engage in a child PTSD screen. Of the children who completed the PTSD screens, close to three-quarters showed one or more trauma symptoms and were offered evidence-based mental health treatment.

The CTRT was developed in partnership between the New York City Police Department, New York County District Attorney’s Office, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and Safe Horizon. 

The trauma response team identifies children under 18 who have directly or indirectly been exposed to serious incidents of intimate partner violence and provides an immediate interdisciplinary response to affected families, most of which have a female caregiver.

“When an incident of intimate partner violence is reported to the police, the team immediately reaches out to the family to assess the safety risks of the victim and their children, explores family experiences with systemic racism, provides individual supportive counseling and crisis intervention, and offers information on criminal justice and social service processes and resources,” explained Arisly Rodriguez, senior director of the Child Trauma Response Team at Safe Horizon.

CTRT focuses on building a relationship with the caregiver and trains staff to incorporate child PTSD screening questions within the conversation. 

“Focusing on the immediate safety needs of the caregiver and children may create the trust needed to pave the way for deeper conversations about child well-being,” said Stylianou.

The findings also show that children who witnessed a felony were more likely to be screened for PTSD and that Black children were close to three times more likely to have a positive PTSD screen than White or Hispanic/Latino children — a rate possibly due to their exposure to structural and racial trauma.

“The results suggest that the CTRT model is a promising practice for providing a swift interdisciplinary response to children and their caregivers to reduce the immediate and long-term effects of witnessing such violence,” Stylianou said. 

“Truly accessible early intervention models, responsive to the unique risks and needs of all families, can play a critical role in identifying and linking children at risk of PTSD to early intervention mental health programs.”

Source: Rutgers University

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Mouse Study: How Fear Turns Into Chronic Anxiety https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/07/17/mouse-study-how-fear-turns-into-chronic-anxiety/158033.html Fri, 17 Jul 2020 10:35:33 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=158033 In a new study, researchers wanted to better understand how fear from a frightening event can evolve into chronic anxiety in some individuals. “Until now, psychiatrists had little information about...

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In a new study, researchers wanted to better understand how fear from a frightening event can evolve into chronic anxiety in some individuals.

“Until now, psychiatrists had little information about what goes on in the brain after a fearful experience, and why some people don’t easily recover and remain anxious, for even as long as the rest of their lives,” says team leader Elaine L. Bearer, MD, PhD, from the University of New Mexico (UNM).

The goal of the study was to shed light on the brain’s response to fear and why, in some cases, it can lead to prolonged anxiety states like post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

While studying a mouse model, the researchers found that brain activity in anxiety is not the same as in an acute fear response. During anxiety, neural activity is heightened across many specific regions of the brain, and normal coordination between regions is lost.

While not applicable in human subjects, fear can be provoked in rodents by exposure to a frightening smell, such as a product commonly used to protect barbecue grills from mouse nesting. This distinct smell mimics a predator odor and scares mice away.

The research team used this trick to study how the brain responds to frightening events and discover how brain activity evolves from a scary feeling into anxiety.

In a paper published in the journal NeuroImage, the researchers report a link between behavior and brain activity by watching behavior and capturing magnetic resonance images before, during and after exposure to non-scary and scary smells.

They created vulnerability to anxiety by manipulating the serotonin transporter (SERT), which is the major target of psychoactive drugs, like cocaine, and antidepressants, like Prozac. Deletion of the SERT gene (SERT-KO) produces vulnerability to anxiety, and thus provides a unique model to learn how frightening experiences morph into anxiety.

The team compared behavior and brain activity in normal versus SERT-KO to see what happens in the brain during anxiety — those regions active in anxious SERT-KOs and not in normal subjects.

The team used manganese, a non-toxic ion that lights up active neurons in magnetic resonance images. Computational analyses of the images revealed maps of activity throughout the brain before, immediately and long after brief exposure to the scary smell.

The researchers found differences in neural activity in 45 sub-regions throughout the brain. Some regions were activated by the scary smell, and some only came on later. Vulnerability to anxiety was associated with much more activity in many more regions.

The function of some of these regions, including the amygdala and hypothalamus, is at least partly understood, but others, such as the reward circuitry, were not previously known to be involved in anxiety.

In addition, the coordination between regions was altered during states of anxiety, which may represent a brain-wide signature of anxiety, or signify a discoordination between brain regions, which is often experienced when we are frightened or anxious.

“We now know that brain activity in anxiety is not the same as in an acute fear response,” Bearer says. “With anxiety, neural activity is elevated across many specific regions of the brain, and normal coordination between regions is lost.”

The time lag for resilient or anxious outcomes suggests that early containment of fearful responses may reduce the likelihood of progression to anxiety.

The involvement of serotonin also suggests drug targets that could help in reducing the likelihood of anxiety. Meditation, music, poetry, exercise and other stress-reducing activities that engage the reward circuitry may also help. Early interventions will have lasting benefits.

Bearer conducted the study with graduate student Taylor W. Uselman.

Source: University of New Mexico Health Science Center

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Nitrous Oxide for PTSD? https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/07/13/nitrous-oxide-for-ptsd/158021.html Mon, 13 Jul 2020 12:00:15 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=158021 A new pilot study gives an early glimpse into how veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may benefit from one simple, inexpensive treatment involving nitrous oxide, commonly...

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A new pilot study gives an early glimpse into how veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may benefit from one simple, inexpensive treatment involving nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas.

For military veterans with PTSD, symptoms such as anxiety, anger and depression can have a devastating effect on their health, daily routine, relationships and overall quality of life.

The study, which involved three military veterans struggling with PTSD, could lead to improved treatments for the debilitating psychiatric disorder that has affected thousands of current and former members of the U.S. military.

The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“Effective treatments for PTSD are limited,” said anesthesiologist Peter Nagele, M.D., chair of the Department of Anesthesia & Critical Care at the University of Chicago Medicine and co-author of the paper. “While small in scale, this study shows the early promise of using nitrous oxide to quickly relieve symptoms of PTSD.”

Nagele is a pioneer in the field of using nitrous oxide to treat depression. Most commonly known for its use by dentists, nitrous oxide is a low-cost, easy-to-use medication. Although some patients may experience side effects like nausea or vomiting, the reactions are typically temporary.

For the new study, three veterans with PTSD were asked to inhale a single one-hour dose of 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen through a face mask. Within hours after breathing nitrous oxide, two of the patients reported a marked improvement in their PTSD symptoms.

This improvement lasted one week for one of the patients, while the other patient’s symptoms gradually returned over the week. The third patient reported an improvement two hours after his treatment but went back to experiencing symptoms the next day.

“Like many other treatments, nitrous oxide appears to be effective for some patients but not for others,” explained Nagele, who is himself a veteran of the Austrian Army and grateful to have identified an opportunity to help other veterans. “Often drugs work only on a subset of patients, while others do not respond. It’s our role to determine who may benefit from this treatment, and who won’t.”

Exactly how and why nitrous oxide relieves symptoms of depression in some people and not others is still unclear. Most traditional antidepressants work through the brain chemical serotonin. Similar to ketamine, an anesthetic that recently received FDA approval in a nasal spray to treat those whose major depression has not responded to other drugs, nitrous oxide works through a different mechanism, by blocking N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors.

In a 2015 landmark study, Nagele discovered that two-thirds of patients with treatment-resistant depression experienced an improvement in symptoms after receiving nitrous oxide.

Moving into the future, Nagele is researching the ideal dose of nitrous oxide to treat intractable depression. Study participants with treatment-resistant depression were given different doses of nitrous oxide so that Nagele and his team could compare each dose’s effectiveness and side effects. The study is being funded by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

The study was funded by the VA Office of Research and Development Clinical Science Research & Development Service. It involved a Stanford University School of Medicine team from the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, including principal investigators Drs. Carolyn Rodriguez and David Clark.

Source: University of Chicago Medical Center

 

 

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Walking Shelter Dogs May Ease Veterans’ PTSD Symptoms https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/06/29/walking-shelter-dogs-may-ease-veterans-ptsd-symptoms/157603.html Mon, 29 Jun 2020 10:30:16 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=157603 The U.S. is home to more than 21 million military veterans, and 20 percent of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moreover, it is estimated that 20 veterans die...

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The U.S. is home to more than 21 million military veterans, and 20 percent of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moreover, it is estimated that 20 veterans die of suicide each day, resulting in about 6,000 deaths by suicide each year.

Florida Atlantic University researchers believe a new study exploring the human-animal bond could play an important role in helping ease the suffering of many vets.

Human-animal interaction is known to reduce stress. Yet few studies have examined the health effects of interacting with dogs, specifically in the veteran population. With about 6 to 8 million dogs ending up in shelters in the U.S. each year —half of which won’t get adopted — researchers enlisted the help of two no-kill shelters for a study evaluating the effects of walking with a shelter dog on psychological and physiological stress indicators in military veterans.

The randomized study was led by Cheryl Krause-Parello, Ph.D., a faculty fellow of FAU’s Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing and SUNY Fredonia. Study findings appear in the journal Anthrozoös, and showed that walking with a shelter dog may affect psychological and physiological stress indicators in veterans. Researchers found the activity beneficial for veterans with an increase in PTSD symptom severity.

In the study, investigators compared the effects of walking with a shelter dog versus walking with a human on psychological stress indicators, PTSD symptoms, and perceived stress in reintegrating military veterans.

Krause-Parello and collaborators evaluated three physiological stress biomarkers: heart rate variability, salivary cortisol, and the enzyme alpha-amylase over four weeks of walking with a dog and walking with a human.

The body’s reaction to stress affects these biomarkers. The researchers included the heart rate variability biomarker because of its strong correlations with human physical stress and psychosocial stress.

The clearest indicator for decreases in stress came from the heart rate variability data, which was most apparent for veterans with greater PTSD symptom severity. Heart rate variability was measured before, during and for 30 minutes after walking.

“Based on heart rate variability, our study provides evidence that walking with a shelter dog may benefit veterans with higher symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Severity of symptoms and perceived stress tended to decrease more after walks with a dog than walks with a human,” said Krause-Parello.

Responses to walking with a dog and a human from week one to week four were different depending on PTSD symptom severity. Walking with another person did not change stress levels, as measured with cortisol, in those with high PTSD symptom severity.

Walking with a dog or another person led to decreases in cortisol among those with low PTSD symptom severity. For individuals with high PTSD symptom severity, walking with a dog did not change stress levels, as indicated by alpha amylase, but walking with a person led to increased stress.

For individuals with lower PTSD symptoms, alpha amylase did not change significantly for either type of walk.

“Our findings emphasize the need for more research to determine if this form of human-animal interaction is beneficial to veterans with PTSD and to help us identify the optimal level of interaction that will be most impactful for them,” said Krause-Parello.

This unique pairing has the potential to be mutually beneficial for veterans and humankind’s “best friend” alike. The researchers emphasize the obvious benefits of human-animal interaction for shelter dogs. They need to be walked and socialized on a consistent basis to develop a positive relationship with humans. Moreover, walking a shelter dog reduces their stress, expands the boundaries of a mundane kennel cage, and improves the likelihood they will be successfully adopted.

The dogs involved in the study resided in the two shelters and were awaiting adoption.

“Considering the large number and availability of shelter dogs in the United States, it really makes sense to consider the potential for these dogs to be involved in a unique intervention that combines the benefits of human-animal interaction with the benefits of altruistic action like volunteerism,” said Erika Friedmann, Ph.D., co-author, a professor and associate dean for research at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

Men and women ages 22 to 69 years old participated in the study. A total of 72 different dogs participated in 124 walks and ranged in size from toy (7.2 pounds) to giant (90 pounds). Each dog walked one to six times.

Veterans were asked to draw a name to determine what dog they would be walking with to ensure randomization and to minimize the risk of becoming attached to a shelter dog that might be adopted during the course of the study.

“This innovative research confirms the importance of the human-animal bond. It brings to life an unexpected connection between shelter dogs and veterans, serving to meet a need for both and providing direction for holistic programming that addresses both the health of veterans and that of shelter dogs. It is a win-win,” said Patricia Liehr, Ph.D., associate dean of research and scholarship at FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.

Source: Florida Atlantic University

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Why Military Deployment Is Harder for Some than Others https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/06/20/why-military-deployment-is-harder-for-some-than-others/157492.html Sat, 20 Jun 2020 13:00:28 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=157492 A new study by Michigan State University researchers looks at why active duty has a profoundly different mental health effect for many veterans. The issue is important for veterans, their...

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A new study by Michigan State University researchers looks at why active duty has a profoundly different mental health effect for many veterans.

The issue is important for veterans, their family and colleagues, and military leaders. Numerous studies have found that deployment can be associated with poorer mental health in military families, behavioral problems in children, a higher risk of divorce, and higher rates of suicide.

Indeed, many service members and spouses regularly name deployments as the most stressful aspect of military life. The new study is unique as it looks at the solider seeking to learn why deployment affects individuals differently. The saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” doesn’t necessarily hold up when it comes to military mental health.

Investigators examined veterans’ personalities before and after deployment to measure psychological changes resulting from combat. The research was a partnership between MSU and the United States Army with a goal to help military leaders better understand why some soldiers struggled with reintegration to civilian life while others did not.

Study results appear in Journal of Personality.

“Veterans’ substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide rates are higher than other populations; the Army knew it was time to more closely track psychological traits before and after they deployed,” said Dr. William Chopik, associate professor of psychology at MSU and lead author.

“Our research suggests that many mental health struggles existed before they were sent overseas.”

As the largest study of its kind, more than 212,000 men and women Army active duty personnel completed a questionnaire that measured different psychological characteristics before deployment and after returning from combat.

“The questionnaire measured 24 ‘character strengths,’ ranging from appreciation, courage and temperance to bravery, humor and love,” Chopik said. “Having high character traits is something we associate with people who don’t suffer from mental health conditions.”

The researchers found that 60 percent of the soldiers scored highly in character strengths prior to deployment and changed little once they returned home. The other 40 percent started with lower character strengths and declined post-deployment – and they struggled significantly to recover.

“Our findings suggest that people who are stable with positive character strengths prior to deployment – which was the majority of soldiers – don’t have high rates of substance abuse, depression or other struggles once they return from combat,” Chopik said. “If someone from this group struggled once coming home, they were able to bounce back.”

On the other hand, the 40 percent who went into the Army with lower character strengths experienced further declines, with only small improvements over time.

“If you’re humble, forgiving and honest before deployment, you’ll likely come home that way,” Chopik said.

“But if you’re struggling before, you’ll struggle later. Combat intensifies and exacerbates the low character strengths in nearly 85,000 soldiers – which is a substantial number of people who are at-risk for major mental health issues.”

The Army is using the research findings to boost its efforts in developing resources that will help the 40 percent of its struggling veterans assimilate to civilian life, Chopik explained. He also said that the Army is taking a closer look at mental health before and after allowing soldiers to begin active duty.

“This is a scenario in which the effects of trauma are clearly pronounced,” Chopik said. “Times have changed in our society, and we’re paying much closer attention to military mental health than we did in the 20th century.”

Chopik hopes that the public will be more sensitive to the fact that traumatic experiences – like serving in the military – are exposing people to experiences that can have long-lasting changes and effects on their personalities.

Source: Michigan State University

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“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” Proven False By New Research https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/06/19/what-doesnt-kill-you-makes-you-stronger-proven-false-by-new-research/157302.html Fri, 19 Jun 2020 10:30:32 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=157302 The famous saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is so universally accepted that it is used in everyday conversations and popular songs. But a new study finds the...

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The famous saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is so universally accepted that it is used in everyday conversations and popular songs.

But a new study finds the truism is actually false. According to researchers, past stressful experiences do not create resilience to future trauma.

In fact, the research suggests the opposite is true: Past stressors sensitize people to future traumas, increasing their chances of developing a mental health disorder.

“We hope that this research will spur interest in the face of the increasing number of natural disasters per year — a major consequence of climate change — such as the devastating earthquake that affected Chile and neighboring countries,” said Cristina Fernandez, a psychiatric epidemiologist at Brown University in Rhode Island and the study’s lead author. “The immediate global impacts of these catastrophic events on disease, death, and the economy are largely well recognized. Unfortunately, despite a high disease burden, mental illness has thus far not achieved commensurate visibility, policy attention, or funding.”

The study was a collaborative effort led by scientists at Brown University and the University of Concepción in central Chile.

The team examined 1,160 Chileans in 2003 and 2011 — before and after the sixth most powerful earthquake on record and subsequent tsunami struck their country in 2010.

When the study began in 2003, none of the participants had a history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depressive disorder (MDD), according to the researchers. After the 2010 earthquake, 9.1% of the survivors were diagnosed with PTSD and 14.4% with MDD­.

The risk of developing these disorders was particularly high among individuals who experienced multiple pre-disaster stressors, such as a serious illness or injury, death of a loved one, divorce, unemployment or financial struggles, legal troubles, or loss of a valuable possession.

To be at increased risk for post-disaster PTSD, individuals had to have crossed a “severity threshold” of four or more pre-disaster stressors, the researchers explained.

MDD displayed a slightly different pattern: Every pre-disaster stressor, even a single stressor increased a person’s risk of developing post-disaster MDD, and each additional stressor further increased the risk, according to the study’s findings.

The researchers say that, overall, both findings suggest that the Chilean disaster survivors who had experienced multiple stressors and traumas were at a greater risk of developing a post-disaster mental health disorder compared to those who had experienced few or no prior stressors.

“Unfortunately, the same may well hold true with COVID-19,” said Stephen Buka, a professor of epidemiology at Brown’s School of Public Health and senior author of the paper. “We’re already witnessing how black and Latino Americans are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infections and fatalities. All evidence suggests that disadvantaged groups, who frequently have higher levels of prior life stresses, such as limited finances and job instability, will be most likely to suffer the most from serious mental health conditions following the pandemic.”

The team hopes its research will help other countries understand the importance of accessible mental health care.

“Personal and national mental health preparedness kits, such as the ones utilized in Chile, help mitigate the negative effects of disasters and can serve as a model for other countries,” said Benjamin Vicente, a principal investigator of the study from the University of Concepción. “Along with strict building codes, Chile has a national health care service, which includes integrated primary and mental health care centers, most of which have trained personnel to provide disaster coping strategies when needed.

The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Source: Brown University

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Common Mental Health Disorders Caused by Adversity, not Chemistry? https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/06/05/common-mental-health-disorders-caused-by-adversity-not-chemistry/156839.html Fri, 05 Jun 2020 10:30:16 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=156839 Emerging research suggests some of the most common mental disorders including depression, anxiety and PTSD, might not be disorders at all, rather a response to adversity. As such, an effective...

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Emerging research suggests some of the most common mental disorders including depression, anxiety and PTSD, might not be disorders at all, rather a response to adversity. As such, an effective strategy for the afflictions may be to find a social or cultural solution.

In the study, Washington State University biological anthropologists propose a new approach to mental illness that would be informed by human evolution. They contend that modern psychology, and in particular its use of drugs like antidepressants, has largely failed to reduce the prevalence of mental disorders.

In the paper, published in the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, the authors share that the global prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders has remained steady at 4.4% and 4% respectively from 1990 to 2010.

The authors also theorize that depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder may be primarily responses to adversity; therefore, only treating the “psychic pain” of these issues with drugs will not solve the underlying problem.

Kristen Syme, the first author on the paper compared the traditional approach to medicating someone for a broken bone without setting the bone itself.

“The pain is not the disease; the pain is the function that is telling you there is a problem,” said Syme.

“Depression, anxiety and PTSD often involve a threat or exposure to violence, which are predictable sources for these things that we call mental diseases. Instead, they look more like sociocultural phenomena, so the solution is not necessarily fixing a dysfunction in the person’s brain but fixing dysfunctions in the social world.”

Syme and co-author Edward Hagen advocate for biological anthropologists to enter the study of the “diseases of the mind,” to help find effective solutions, particularly for some problems that may be social instead of mental.

“Mental health research is still very much stuck in a view that comes out of the 19th century, and revived in 1980, of classifying everything by symptoms in the hopes of revealing underlying patterns that would lead to solutions, but it really has not,” said Hagen, a WSU professor of evolutionary anthropology and corresponding author on the paper.

“Even though we’re using new measurements, like genetics, biomarkers and imaging, these still haven’t added up to the insights needed to really improve people’s lives.”

Among the more problematic issues, the researchers point to the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression, which has helped create a boom in antidepressant drugs meant to modulate certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.

A large meta-analysis of antidepressant trials in 2018 found that antidepressants had almost the same effect as a placebo, and their widespread use has not delivered measurable results.

For example, in Australia alone, antidepressant use increased 352% from 1990 to 2002, yet there has been no observed reduction in the prevalence of mood, anxiety or substance use disorders in any country.

Instead of addressing mental issues by their symptoms, Hagen and Syme propose approaching mental illness by their probable causes. They acknowledge that some psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia are likely genetic and often inherited and others, like Alzheimer’s, appear connected with aging.

However, the anthropologists argue that some conditions might be a mismatch between modern and ancestral environments such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD.

Hagen pointed out that there is little in our evolutionary history that accounts for children quietly sitting in desks while watching a teacher do math equations.

Other disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD are not hereditary, occur at any age and are often tied to threatening experiences. Hagen and Syme propose they may be responses to adversity and serve as signals, much like physical pain does, to make people aware of the need for help.

These conditions also disproportionately affect people in developing countries. For instance, 1 in 5 people in conflict-affected countries suffer from depression versus 1 in 14 worldwide.

“As anthropologists, we should be studying this a lot more because the mental health burden in the populations we often study is quite high,” Hagen said. “In many cases, they’re suffering from pervasive warfare, conflict and inadequate policing.”

Source: Washington State University

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Recalling Childhood Abuse May Matter More for Mental Health Than Records https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/05/19/recalling-childhood-abuse-may-matter-more-for-mental-health-than-records/156636.html Tue, 19 May 2020 11:30:58 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=156636 Recalling a personal account of childhood maltreatment is more closely linked to mental health problems than legal proof that the maltreatment occurred, according to a new study published in the...

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Recalling a personal account of childhood maltreatment is more closely linked to mental health problems than legal proof that the maltreatment occurred, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

The findings suggest that the subjective experience of maltreatment as a child may play a more vital role in adult emotional disorders than the event itself, and as a result, clinical work focusing on a patient’s memories and thinking patterns around abuse and neglect could be more influential on mental health than previously thought.

A research team from King’s College London and City University of New York analyzed data of nearly 1,200 people. They found that individuals who had been identified as victims of child maltreatment by official court records,  but who did not recall the experience, were at no greater risk of adult psychiatric disorders than those with neither objective nor subjective experiences of abuse or neglect.

However, court-documented victims of maltreatment who also remembered the experience were nearly twice as likely to have emotional disorders in adulthood, such as depression and anxiety. In addition, those who remembered the experience of child maltreatment but did not have court evidence were at a similarly higher risk of psychiatric disorders.

“This is the first study that has comprehensively investigated the relative contribution of objective and subjective experience of childhood maltreatment in the development of psychiatric disorders,” said Professor Andrea Danese from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

“We often think that objective and subjective experiences are one of the same, but we have found here that this is not quite true for childhood maltreatment — and that people’s own accounts of their experience are very important for their risk of psychopathology.”

“Our findings offer new hope that psychological treatments that address memories, cognitions and attitudes related to child maltreatment can help relieve the heavy mental health toll associated with this experience. This is a valuable insight at a time when there may be a rise in cases of child maltreatment due to restrictions to normal life and social care imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Specifically, the study showed that subjects with a combination of subjective reports and official records of childhood maltreatment had a 35% greater risk of experiencing any form of psychopathology compared to those with no measures of maltreatment at all.

Participants who identified themselves as victims of childhood maltreatment but with no official record of abuse or neglect had a 29% greater risk of any psychopathology. However, those who had official records of childhood maltreatment but no subjective reports of the experience appeared to be at no greater risk of developing any psychopathology.

The researchers looked at data from a unique sample in the U.S. Midwest, consisting of 908 people who had been identified as victims of child abuse or neglect on official court records from 1967-1971, alongside a comparison group of 667 people who had been matched on age, sex, ethnicity and family social class but who had no official records of abuse or neglect.

The participants were followed up about 20 years later at an average age of 28.7 years and were evaluated for psychiatric problems and asked to provide their own accounts of abuse and neglect as children. At follow-up there remained a total of 1,196 in the sample.

A major strength of the study was the use of objective measures of child abuse and neglect based on official records from juvenile and adult criminal courts, which were the basis for legal actions to protect children and prosecute perpetrators. Subjective measures of maltreatment were based on retrospective reports of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.

The study looked at a range of psychiatric disorders including depression, dysthymia, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), antisocial personality disorder, alcohol abuse and/or dependence, and drug abuse and/or dependence.

Further analysis into the different types of mental health conditions found that those with personal recall of childhood maltreatment were almost twice as likely to experience the emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety. They were also more than five times as likely to develop behavioral problems, such as antisocial personality, and also more likely to develop alcohol or substance abuse and/or dependence.

“Traditionally, as researchers, we have been concerned about establishing whether abuse and neglect have occurred, or what neurological or physical damage these experiences may have caused to the victims,” said Danese.

“This is, of course, very important, but the reality may be less deterministic. The actual occurrence of the event may not be as important in the development of psychiatric disorders as how the victim has experienced and responded to the event or, more generally, how people think about their childhood experiences.”

Source: King’s College London

 

 

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Young Refugees Face Risk of Mental Illness Even After Arriving to ‘Safety’ https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/05/12/young-refugees-face-risk-of-mental-illness-even-after-arriving-to-safety/156448.html Tue, 12 May 2020 12:00:09 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=156448 Many refugees have experienced severe trauma, such as war, torture, human trafficking and extreme poverty, all of which place them at much greater risk for mental illness, even years later....

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Many refugees have experienced severe trauma, such as war, torture, human trafficking and extreme poverty, all of which place them at much greater risk for mental illness, even years later.

Now a new German study finds that, even after arriving in Germany, refugees are often forced to live in conditions which further worsen their mental stress.

A research team from the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine show that each additional risk factor puts further strain on the mental health of young refugees. This can lead to functional deficits and behavioral problems, which may be expressed as aggressive and criminal behavior later in life.

It is therefore even more imperative to provide care and support for refugees, and to offer them the opportunity to break out of the spiral of negative experiences.

Previous studies have shown that traumatic experiences, physical and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol use and living in a city are all factors linked to an increase in the risk of mental illness. If a person is subjected to several of these risk factors before the age of 20, he or she is more likely to exhibit aggressive and criminal behavior later in life.

This led a group of Göttingen researchers to take a closer look at a specific risk group: young refugees, as they often experience traumatic events not only in their home country and during their flight, but also face mentally stressful conditions after their arrival in Germany.

Further, the effect of these risk factors is more pronounced among young people, because their brains are still developing, and they react more sensitively to adverse experiences.

To better understand the effects of harmful environmental stress on young refugees, and the consequences for their mental health, the team conducted detailed interviews with 133 relatively healthy refugees (average age 22). Many had traveled to Germany as unaccompanied minors.

In addition to the history-taking, the researchers also looked at the participants’ physical health and used structured interviews to assess any emerging signs of behavioral problems.

“Many refugees are exposed to a shocking number of risk factors,” said Martin Begemann, first author on the publication. In addition to the actual migration experience, more than 95 percent of the refugees are affected by other stressful life events, habits or living conditions that make them more susceptible to mental illness.

In the vast majority of cases, the researchers identified two, three or even more than four additional risk factors. Around half the participants had experienced traumatic experiences before and during their journey; a quarter had suffered physical and sexual abuse.

Around 40 percent of participants had scars or wounds from stabbing or shooting injuries, explosions or the resultant burns. Four young men displayed clear psychotic symptoms, two of these also had suicidal thoughts.

Overall, the more risk factors that were present in a person, the greater the reduction in their ability to function, and the more likely they were to show indications of mental health problems. Precisely which risk factors were present was less significant.

Surprisingly, close and stable personal relationships offered the refugees no protection from these negative effects: Having fled with family or friends, or having a good social network at the time of the study, had no influence on a person’s current mental state. The authors suspect that social support has only a weak protective effect.

It would be several years before the researchers could determine which refugees will go on to exhibit psychological problems or even criminal behavior. However, they expect they will only be able to contact about half of the participants again due to numerous transfers between refugee centers and deportations to the country of origin.

So what can be done right now to improve the poor prognosis for refugees under extreme stress?

“Given that each additional risk factor increases the probability of subsequent aggressive behaviour, criminal activity and mental disorders, we have to prevent the accumulation of further stress factors,” said study leader Hannelore Ehrenreich.

For example, providing refugees with close medical and psychological care and giving them their first simple work activities and language courses even before a final decision on their residence status could help significantly. This could help them to escape from cramped housing conditions where they are confronted with boredom, violence and drugs.

Source: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

 

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Veterans at Risk for Homelessness Long After Military Discharge https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/05/07/veterans-at-risk-for-homelessness-long-after-military-discharge/156301.html Thu, 07 May 2020 11:45:47 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=156301 Homelessness among U.S. military veterans rarely happens immediately after discharge, but instead can take years to manifest with the risk becoming greater over the next 15 years, according to a...

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Homelessness among U.S. military veterans rarely happens immediately after discharge, but instead can take years to manifest with the risk becoming greater over the next 15 years, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The findings reveal that this “sleeper effect” delay is often seen among veterans who served before the Persian Gulf War era, as well as in more recent groups from the post-9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The study points to the long-life cycle leading to homelessness among veterans,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Jack Tsai, research director for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans in Tampa, Florida.

“It often takes years for problems stemming from military service to build up before a veteran becomes homeless. The team and I found that the risk increases exponentially over time in the period 5-15 years post-military discharge.”

For the study, the research team looked at data from two nationally representative samples, including the records of 275,775 homeless veterans who used the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services from 2000-2019, as well as a 2018 population-based community survey of 115 veterans with a history of homelessness.

The average time between discharge and homelessness was found to be 5.5 years in the VA sample and 9.9 years in the survey sample.

Major factors linked to longer discharge-to-homelessness periods include service in the Vietnam War, younger age at military discharge, income, and chronic medical and psychiatric conditions (e.g., depression and alcohol abuse).

The findings reveal that some medical and psychiatric conditions take time to develop and do not quickly lead to homelessness but follow a more chronic course that, if untreated, can eventually lead to homelessness.

Deployments to the post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were significantly linked to shorter duration between discharge and homelessness, a phenomenon that is increasing.

Among homeless VA service users discharged from 2000 to 2008, it took 10 years or more for 10 percent to become homeless; among those discharged from 2009 to 2014, more than 10 percent were homeless seven years after discharge. This finding reflects earlier research showing that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan experience considerable difficulties with social adjustment.

“Understanding what happens to people after they leave the military and at what point they become homeless is important for policymakers, service providers, veterans, and their family members in order to prevent new generations of veterans from becoming homelessness,” said Tsai.

“Those who end up homeless have very low quality of life, and developing strategic early interventions at various stages after military discharge can mitigate that risk.”

Interventions focused on chronic health conditions and social adjustment are crucial to prevent homelessness among these veterans.

The research also highlights the effect of certain socioeconomic issues, such as the lack of affordable housing, unemployment and barriers against subgroups (women veterans with children and veterans with cognitive impairments).

Source: Elsevier

 

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How PTSD Can Lead to Earlier Heart Disease https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/04/29/how-ptsd-can-lead-to-earlier-heart-disease/156078.html Wed, 29 Apr 2020 11:00:08 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=156078 A new study may help explain why patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to develop heart disease at an earlier age than those without the illness. The...

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A new study may help explain why patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to develop heart disease at an earlier age than those without the illness.

The research was supposed to be presented at the American Physiological Society annual meeting in San Diego this month, but the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The abstract is published in The FASEB Journal.

In the study, researchers found evidence of small blood vessel dysfunction which appears to be driven by the sympathetic nervous system — the system behind the fight-or-flight response — along with oxidative stress, an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the bloodstream.

Problems in the small blood vessels are often a precursor to stiffening or narrowing of the larger arteries, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other forms of heart disease.

“We have found that blood vessel dysfunction is more prevalent in young adults with PTSD than those without,” said lead study author Jennifer Weggen, a Ph.D. student at Virginia Commonwealth University. “We hypothesize that both oxidative stress and overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system, independently and cooperatively, may ultimately lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

In any given year about 8 million U.S. adults suffer from PTSD, a mental health disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Prior research has shown that PTSD increases a person’s chances of having heart disease by as much as 50%.

To investigate the path from PTSD to heart disease, the scientists conducted a series of cardiovascular assessments in 16 patients with PTSD and 24 healthy volunteers with similar demographics. The average age in both groups was 24 years old.

The PTSD participants received two assessments and consumed either an antioxidant supplement containing vitamin C, vitamin E and alpha lipoic acid or a placebo beforehand.

Healthy arteries respond to changes in blood flow by constricting and relaxing. The researchers found that all participants had normal responses in the brachial artery, an artery in the arm.

However, the participants with PTSD showed a significantly lower amount of blood flowing through a given portion of the brachial artery during testing which reflects abnormal responses in the smaller vessels further downstream. These patients also had a lower variation in the time intervals between heart beats, a marker of increased sympathetic nervous system activation.

Importantly, those differences essentially disappeared when the participants consumed an antioxidant supplement, suggesting oxidative stress plays a role in both the small vessel dysfunction and the sympathetic nervous system activity.

Free radicals naturally occur in the body as a result of normal physiological processes, but the body makes its own antioxidants to keep them in check. Oxidative stress occurs when the free radicals overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defenses.

“Supplementing with an antioxidant cocktail tipped the balance back to equilibrium, reducing oxidative stress,” said Weggen. However, she warned that antioxidants were used in the study only to understand the potential role of oxidative stress, not to test the supplements as a potential treatment.

“The suggestion of regular use of antioxidants specifically for treatment of PTSD would be premature, as no studies have confirmed its efficacy or safety and appropriate dosage is unknown. Everyone responds differently to antioxidant supplements, and not everyone may reap benefits. Seeking medical guidance would be prudent before taking nutritional supplements,” said Weggen.

Oxidative stress can also be reduced by fortifying the body’s own antioxidant defense systems through lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet, stress reduction and meditation. More studies could help shed light on whether these methods are effective for mediating the oxidant-antioxidant balance in people with PTSD, Weggen noted.

Source: Experimental Biology

 

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PTSD Can Be Rough on Partners of Vets, 1st Responders https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/04/25/ptsd-can-be-rough-on-partners-of-vets-1st-responders/156009.html Sat, 25 Apr 2020 12:30:17 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=156009 New research suggests the partners of first responders, health care workers and veterans may also carry a burden if their loved ones develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a timely...

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New research suggests the partners of first responders, health care workers and veterans may also carry a burden if their loved ones develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a timely finding given the protracted battle against COVID-19.

The Australian study explored the multidimensional nature of experiences of being an intimate partner of a veteran or emergency service first responder with PTSD.

Investigators discovered recognition of the needs of wives and intimate partners in supporting their recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often absent. Researchers from Flinders University found the ways in which partners contribute to their loved ones’ recovery, and their own need for support, are not well understood.

Researchers have acknowledged that the impact of PTSD can reach far beyond the individual suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, affecting the lives of friends and family caring for someone with PTSD. Caregiver burden and stress are common when a loved one has PTSD. Caregivers may feel guilty if they take time for themselves; however, it is vitally important to provide support for caregivers.

Living with and caring for someone with PTSD is stressful, and attention to the caregiver is vitally important, as the caregiver is also the primary source of support needed by those living with PTSD.

In the new study, researchers interviewed 22 partners of Australian veterans, paramedics, fire and police officers to determine partner’s feelings and thoughts. Their analysis revealed that the key concern of the participants was to protect their family unit and the intimate relationship.

“We looked at partners in these groups because of the occupational exposure to trauma they experience,” said Flinders Behavioral Health researcher Professor Sharon Lawn, project lead and author.

“The key finding was that partners feel invisible in recovery. They live with the trauma that their partners experience but are still not acknowledged by health services or professional organizations (such as Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Police, etc) as a vital part of the person’s support system.”

Feeling invisible was the barrier respondents felt to receiving the support they crave, said co-investigator Paula Redpath, a consultant psychotherapist and discipline lead at Flinders Behavioral Health.

“The participants’ key concerns were to protect their family unit and relationship with their partner, showing many ways in which they managed, coped and adapted to myriad changes brought by the PTSD,” she said.

However, many perceive that the strength of their commitment to their relationship, their contribution to the recovery of the veteran, and to what they do every day for the family, is largely invisible to the organizations and healthcare providers available to these occupations, the researchers conclude.

The article appears in the journal Health and Social Care in the Community.

Source: Flinders University/EurekAlert

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