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Traumatic stress in the age of COVID-19: A call to close critical gaps and adapt to new realities

Horesh, Danny; Brown, Adam D
THE ISSUE/OBJECTIVE:by March of 2020. Given the rapid acceleration of transmission, and the lack of preparedness to prevent and treat this virus, the negative impacts of COVID-19 are rippling through every facet of society. Although large numbers of people throughout the world will show resilience to the profound loss, stress, and fear associated with COVID-19, the virus will likely exacerbate existing mental health disorders and contribute to the onset of new stress-related disorders for many. RECOMMENDATIONS/CONCLUSIONS:The field of traumatic stress should address the serious needs that will emerge now and well into the future. However, we propose that these efforts may be limited, in part, by ongoing gaps that exist within our research and clinical care. In particular, we suggest that COVID-19 requires us to prioritize and mobilize as a research and clinical community around several key areas: (a) diagnostics, (b) prevention, (c) public outreach and communication, (d) working with medical staff and mainstreaming into nonmental health services, and (e) COVID-19-specific trauma research. As members of our community begin to rapidly develop and test interventions for COVID-19-related distress, we hope that those in positions of leadership in the field of traumatic stress consider limits of our current approaches, and invest the intellectual and financial resources urgently needed in order to innovate, forge partnerships, and develop the technologies to support those in greatest need. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
PMID: 32271070
ISSN: 1942-969x
CID: 4377602

Mental health disorders and utilization of mental healthcare services in United Nations personnel

Brown, Adam D; Schultebraucks, Katharina; Qian, Meng; Li, Meng; Horesh, Danny; Siegel, Carol; Brody, Yosef; Amer, Abdalla Mansour; Lev-Ari, Rony Kapel; Mas, Francis; Marmar, Charles R; Farmer, Jillann
Background/UNASSIGNED:United Nations (UN) personnel address a diverse range of political, social, and cultural crises throughout the world. Compared with other occupations routinely exposed to traumatic stress, there remains a paucity of research on mental health disorders and access to mental healthcare in this population. To fill this gap, personnel from UN agencies were surveyed for mental health disorders and mental healthcare utilization. Methods/UNASSIGNED:= 17 363) from 11 UN entities completed online measures of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), major depressive disorder (MDD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma exposure, mental healthcare usage, and socio-demographic information. Results/UNASSIGNED:Exposure to one or more traumatic events was reported by 36.2% of survey responders. Additionally, 17.9% screened positive for GAD, 22.8% for MDD, and 19.9% for PTSD. Employing multivariable logistic regressions, low job satisfaction, younger age (<35 years of age), greater length of employment, and trauma exposure on or off-duty was significantly associated with all the three disorders. Among individuals screening positive for a mental health disorder, 2.05% sought mental health treatment within and 10.01% outside the UN in the past year. Conclusions/UNASSIGNED:UN personnel appear to be at high risk for trauma exposure and screening positive for a mental health disorder, yet a small percentage screening positive for mental health disorders sought treatment. Despite the mental health gaps observed in this study, additional research is needed, as these data reflect a large sample of convenience and it cannot be determined if the findings are representative of the UN.
PMID: 32180988
ISSN: 2054-4251
CID: 4350422

Autobiographical Memory and Future Thinking Specificity and Content in Chronic Pain

Quenstedt, Stella R; Sucher, Jillian N; Pfeffer, Kendall A; Hart, Roland; Brown, Adam D
Chronic pain is associated with high levels of mental health issues and alterations in cognitive processing. Cognitive-behavioral models illustrate the role of memory alterations (e.g., autobiographical memory and future thinking) in the development and maintenance of chronic pain as well as in mental health disorders which frequently co-occur with chronic pain (e.g., anxiety and mood disorders). This study aims to expand our understanding of specific cognitive mechanisms underlying chronic pain which may in turn shed light on cognitive processes underlying pain-related psychological distress. Individuals (N = 84) who reported a history of chronic pain and individuals who reported no history of chronic pain (N = 102) were recruited from MTurk to complete an online survey including standardized measures of anxiety and depression and two sentence completion tasks that assessed autobiographical memory and future thinking specificity and content. Chi square analyses revealed that participants who endorsed experiencing chronic pain were significantly more likely to recall at least one painful and negative event and to imagine at least one anticipated painful event in their future. Two ANCOVAs were performed to examine the degree to which chronic pain endorsement influenced specificity in memory and future imagining. Individuals with a history of chronic pain and higher levels of depression symptom severity generated autobiographical memories with significantly less specificity; whereas, individuals with a history of chronic pain also generated future autobiographical events with significantly less specificity. In addition, individuals with a history of chronic pain were more likely to generate episodes related to pain when asked to recall the past or imagine the future. Further research is needed to improve our understanding of the etiology of autobiographical memory and future thinking specificity and content in the pathogenesis of mental health conditions in the context of chronic pain.
PMID: 33510697
ISSN: 1664-1078
CID: 4799562

Speech-based markers for posttraumatic stress disorder in US veterans

Marmar, Charles R; Brown, Adam D; Qian, Meng; Laska, Eugene; Siegel, Carole; Li, Meng; Abu-Amara, Duna; Tsiartas, Andreas; Richey, Colleen; Smith, Jennifer; Knoth, Bruce; Vergyri, Dimitra
BACKGROUND:The diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is usually based on clinical interviews or self-report measures. Both approaches are subject to under- and over-reporting of symptoms. An objective test is lacking. We have developed a classifier of PTSD based on objective speech-marker features that discriminate PTSD cases from controls. METHODS:Speech samples were obtained from warzone-exposed veterans, 52 cases with PTSD and 77 controls, assessed with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale. Individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) were excluded. Audio recordings of clinical interviews were used to obtain 40,526 speech features which were input to a random forest (RF) algorithm. RESULTS:The selected RF used 18 speech features and the receiver operating characteristic curve had an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.954. At a probability of PTSD cut point of 0.423, Youden's index was 0.787, and overall correct classification rate was 89.1%. The probability of PTSD was higher for markers that indicated slower, more monotonous speech, less change in tonality, and less activation. Depression symptoms, alcohol use disorder, and TBI did not meet statistical tests to be considered confounders. CONCLUSIONS:This study demonstrates that a speech-based algorithm can objectively differentiate PTSD cases from controls. The RF classifier had a high AUC. Further validation in an independent sample and appraisal of the classifier to identify those with MDD only compared with those with PTSD comorbid with MDD is required.
PMID: 31006959
ISSN: 1520-6394
CID: 3821282

Acute and mixed alcohol intoxications in asylum seekers presenting to an urban emergency department in Switzerland

Brown, Adam D; Müller, Martin; Hirschi, Trevor; Henssler, Jonathan F; Rönz, Katharina; Exadaktylos, Aristomenis K; Srivastava, David
BACKGROUND:Previous studies have reported an increase in alcohol-and-mixed intoxication (AAMI)-related emergency department (ED) admissions, but less is known about the incidence and characteristics of AAMI admissions to EDs among asylum-seeking patients. Asylum seeking patients may be at higher risk for AAMI due stressors associated with forced migration. The aim of this study was to determine the proportional incidence, population characteristics, and predictors of ED admissions due to AAMI among patients with a residency status of asylum seeker as compared to those with a residency status of Swiss-national. METHODS:This retrospective analysis included all medical consultations from a large, adult ED in Switzerland between January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2016. The residency status of consultations was established if possible, and AAMI was determined utilizing a two-step screening procedure, blinded for residency status. A multivariable logistic regression was performed to determine the odds of AAMI in asylum-seeking patient consultations compared to consultations for Swiss-national patients. In addition, patient characteristics among asylum seekers admitted for AAMI were compared to patients with Swiss-national residency status for AAMI. RESULTS:In total, 117,716 eligible consultations (Swiss-national patient consultations: n = 115,226 and asylum-seeker consultations: n = 2490) were included in this study. The proportional incidence of AAMI among asylum seekers was 3.7% (n = 92) compared to 1.6% (n = 1841) among the Swiss-national patients. AAMI in asylum seekers was associated with higher levels of trauma (37.0% vs. 23.5%, p = 0.003), and hospital admission (35.4% vs. 14.1%, p < 0.001), but a smaller proportion of chronic alcohol consumption (13.0% vs. 43.5%, p < 0.001), and psychiatric referrals (26.1% vs. 49.0%, p < 0.001). Multivariable analysis controlling for age, sex, triage category, weekend admission, year of admission, and multiple visits showed a 1.6 times higher odds (95% CI: 1.3, 2.0; p < 0.001) for an AAMI-related ED consultation in asylum seeking patients. CONCLUSIONS:These findings show that individuals seeking asylum in a high-income country may be at greater risk for AAMI-related admission than the local population. Given the observed association between AAMI-related ED admissions and trauma, suicidality, and psychiatric referrals among this subpopulation, the data also suggests that co-morbid mental health disorders associated with forced displacement may contribute to hazardous alcohol use.
PMID: 31077159
ISSN: 1471-2458
CID: 3929602

Decreasing Event Centrality in Undergraduates Using Cognitive Bias Modification of Appraisals

Vermeulen, Mirjam; Brown, Adam D.; Raes, Filip; Krans, Julie
Event centrality refers to the extent to which a personal event in autobiographical memory serves as a reference point for other experiences, as a turning point in the life-story, and is integrated into components of personal identity. Research has shown that event centrality is positively related to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, limited research is available on the causal relation between event centrality and PTSD symptoms. We examined this causal link in a series of experiments. A pilot test showed that, out of four manipulations, only a cognitive bias modification training of appraisal (CBM-App) decreased event centrality in participants with high event centrality scores. Next, we tested whether the CBM-App training influenced event centrality and PTSD symptoms in a new sample. Participants in the CBM-App condition reported reduced event centrality compared to participants in a non-centrality control condition. No changes in PTSD symptoms were found. The link between event centrality and PTSD symptoms was mediated by posttraumatic cognitions and rumination. Together, these studies suggest that CBM-App training can lower appraisals of event centrality of a distressing autobiographical memory. Long-term effects on PTSD symptoms will need to be tested in future research.
ISSN: 0147-5916
CID: 3733872

Increasing self-efficacy reduces visual intrusions to a trauma-film paradigm

Rahman, Nadia; Horesh, Danny; Kouri, Nicole A; Kapel Lev-Ari, Rony; Titcombe-Parekh, Roseann; Bryant, Richard A; Marmar, Charles R; Brown, Adam D
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES/OBJECTIVE:It has been proposed that self-efficacy plays a critical role in the onset and maintenance of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This study aimed to test if increasing perceptions of self-efficacy using a false feedback technique about coping abilities prior to a trauma-film paradigm lead to a reduction of visual intrusions over the course of 6 days. DESIGN AND METHODS/METHODS:Healthy participants recruited from the community were randomized to a high self-efficacy (HSE, N = 18), low self-efficacy (LSE, N = 21), or neutral self-efficacy (NSE, N = 23) conditions. RESULTS:Participants in the HSE condition reported higher levels of self-efficacy. In addition, individuals in the HSE conditions reported significantly fewer intrusions over 6 days. Unexpectedly, individuals in the LSE condition reported fewer intrusions on the final day of the study compared to those in the NSE condition. The LSE group was also the only group showing a significant linear decline in intrusion across the 6 days. DISCUSSION/CONCLUSIONS:These findings provide further support that perceptions of self-efficacy are modifiable and may contribute to clinically-relevant processes underlying PTSD. Future prospective research with individuals exposed to trauma will help to shed light on the potential role of self-efficacy to buffer the negative impacts of traumatic stress.
PMID: 30632796
ISSN: 1477-2205
CID: 3580012

Emergency Department Discharge Outcome and Psychiatric Consultation in North African Patients

Keidar, Osnat; Jegerlehner, Sabrina N; Ziegenhorn, Stephan; Brown, Adam D; Müller, Martin; Exadaktylos, Aristomenis K; Srivastava, David S
Studies in Europe have found that immigrants, compared to the local population, are more likely to seek out medical care in Emergency Departments (EDs). In addition, studies show that immigrants utilize medical services provided by EDs for less acute issues. Despite these observed differences, little is known about the characteristics of ED use by North African (NA) immigrants. The main objective of this study was to examine whether there were differences in ED discharge outcomes and psychiatric referrals between NA immigrants and Swiss nationals. A retrospective analysis was conducted using patient records from NA and Swiss adults who were admitted to the ED of the University Hospital in Bern (Switzerland) from 2013⁻2016. Measures included demographic information as well as data on types of admission. Outcome variables included discharge type and psychiatric referral. A total of 77,619 patients generated 116,859 consultations to the ED, of which 1.1 per cent (n = 1338) were consultations by NA patients. Compared to Swiss national patients, NA patients were younger, with a median age of 38.0 (IQR 28⁻51 years vs. 52.0 (IQR 32⁻52) for Swiss and predominantly male (74.4% vs. 55.6% in the Swiss). NA patient admission type was more likely to be "walk-in" or legal admission (7.5% vs 0.8 in Swiss,). Logistic regressions indicated that NA patients had 1.2 times higher odds (95% CI 1.07⁻1.40, p < 0.003) of receiving ambulatory care. An effect modification by age group and sex was observed for the primary outcome "seen by a psychiatrist", especially for men in the 16⁻25 years age group, whereby male NA patients had 3.45 times higher odds (95% CI: 2.22⁻5.38) of having being seen by a psychiatrist. In conclusion differences were observed between NA and Swiss national patients in ED consultations referrals and outcomes, in which NA had more ambulatory discharges and NA males, especially young, were more likely to have been seen by psychiatrist. Future studies would benefit from identifying those factors underlying these differences in ED utilization.
PMID: 30227686
ISSN: 1660-4601
CID: 3301512

Neural circuitry changes associated with increasing self-efficacy in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Titcombe-Parekh, Roseann F; Chen, Jingyun; Rahman, Nadia; Kouri, Nicole; Qian, Meng; Li, Meng; Bryant, Richard A; Marmar, Charles R; Brown, Adam D
Cognitive models suggest that posttraumtic stress disorder (PTSD) is maintained, in part, as a result of an individual's maladaptive beliefs about one's ability to cope with current and future stress. These models are consistent with considerable findings showing a link between low levels of self-efficacy and PTSD. A growing body of work has demonstrated that perceptions of self-efficacy can be enhanced experimentally in healthy subjects and participants with PTSD, and increasing levels of self-efficacy improves performance on cognitive, affective, and problem-solving tasks. This study aimed to determine whether increasing perceptions of self-efficacy in participants with PTSD would be associated with changes in neural processing. Combat veterans (N = 34) with PTSD were randomized to either a high self-efficacy (HSE) induction, in which they were asked to recall memories associated with successful coping, or a control condition before undergoing resting state fMRI scanning. Two global network measures in four neural circuits were examined. Participants in the HSE condition showed greater right-lateralized path length and decreased right-lateralized connectivity in the emotional regulation and executive function circuit. In addition, area under receiver operating characteristics curve (AUC) analyses found that average connectivity (.71) and path length (.70) moderately predicted HSE group membership. These findings provide further support for the importance of enhancing perceived control in PTSD, and doing so may engage neural targets that could guide the development of novel interventions.
PMID: 29982083
ISSN: 1879-1379
CID: 3191522

Crucial need to improve mental health research and training for human rights advocates [Letter]

Bagrodia, Rohini; Knuckey, Sarah; Satterthwaite, Margaret L; Sawhney, Ria Singh; Brown, Adam D
PMID: 29857840
ISSN: 2215-0374
CID: 3137112