The present study seeks to examine the impact of therapeutic interventions for refugees within a naturalistic setting.
Sixty-two refugees from Burma were assessed soon after arriving in Australia. All participants received standard interventions provided by a resettlement organisation which included therapeutic interventions, assessment, social assistance, and referrals where appropriate. At the completion of service provision a follow-up assessment was conducted.
Over the course of the intervention, participants experienced a significant decrease in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and somatisation. Pre-intervention symptoms predicted symptoms post-intervention for post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and somatisation. Post-migration living difficulties, the number of traumas experienced, and the number of contacts with the service agency were unrelated to all mental health outcomes.
In the first Australian study of its kind, reductions in mental health symptoms post-intervention were significantly linked to pre-intervention symptomatology and the number of therapy sessions predicted post-intervention symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Future studies need to include larger samples and control groups to verify findings.
refugees; mental health; intervention studies; evaluation; Burma
Social phobia is a common mental disorder associated with significant impairment. Current research and treatment models of social phobia rely on categorical diagnostic conceptualizations lacking empirical support. This study aims to further research exploring whether social phobia is best conceptualized as a dimension or a discrete categorical disorder.
This study used three distinct taxometric techniques (mean above minus below a cut, maximum Eigen value and latent mode) to explore the latent structure of social phobia in two large epidemiological samples, using indicators derived from diagnostic criteria and associated avoidant personality traits.
Overall, outcomes from multiple taxometric analyses supported dimensional structure. This is consistent with conceptualizations of social phobia as lying on a continuum with avoidant personality traits.
Support for the dimensionality of social phobia has important implications for future research, assessment, treatment, and public policy.
dimensional; latent structure; social phobia; taxometric
Chronic use of methamphetamine (MA) has moderate effects on neurocognitive functions associated with frontal systems, including the executive aspects of verbal episodic memory. Extending this literature, the current study examined the effects of MA on visual episodic memory with the hypothesis that a profile of deficient strategic encoding and retrieval processes would be revealed for visuospatial information (i.e., simple geometric designs), including possible differential effects on source versus item recall.
The sample comprised 114 MA-dependent (MA+) and 110 demographically-matched MA-nondependent comparison participants (MA−) who completed the Brief Visuospatial Memory Test – Revised (BVMT-R), which was scored for standard learning and memory indices, as well as novel item (i.e., figure) and source (i.e., location) memory indices.
Results revealed a profile of impaired immediate and delayed free recall (p < .05) in the context of preserved learning slope, retention, and recognition discriminability in the MA+ group. The MA+ group also performed more poorly than MA− participants on Item visual memory (p < .05) but not Source visual memory (p > .05), and no group by task-type interaction was observed (p > .05). Item visual memory demonstrated significant associations with executive dysfunction, deficits in working memory, and shorter length of abstinence from MA use (p < 0.05).
These visual memory findings are commensurate with studies reporting deficient strategic verbal encoding and retrieval in MA users that are posited to reflect the vulnerability of frontostriatal circuits to the neurotoxic effects of MA. Potential clinical implications of these visual memory deficits are discussed.
Methamphetamine; neuropsychological assessment; encoding; episodic memory; frontal lobe
The caudate nucleus (CN) is a crucial component of the ventral striatum, which is part of a prefrontal-striatal-thalamic circuit that is modulated by limbic structures to subserve emotional processing. Bipolar disorder is thought to be underpinned by dysfunctional anterior limbic networks, although MRI studies examining the CN have shown equivocal results. As gross volumetric analyses may not detect subtle regional change, we aimed to clarify the role of the CN in bipolar disorder by undertaking shape analysis to detect regional reductions.
The CN was manually traced on MRI scans from 27 patients with bipolar-I disorder and 24 matched controls. A non-parametric spherical harmonic shape analysis was undertaken using the SPHARM toolkit.
Whilst the left CN volume was consistently larger in the sample, there was no effect of group or gender or significant interactions between these variables. Volume did not correlate with illness duration or lithium dosage, but was larger in those with a history of psychosis at trend level. However, left caudate shape differed significantly between groups, with deflation in an area along the ventromedial surface (connecting to dorsolateral prefrontal regions) in bipolar patients. Psychotic patients showed increases in the dorsal head and body at trend level overall, in regions connecting to medial and orbitofrontal regions.
These findings suggest that subtle rather than gross structural changes occur in the CN, which may not be detectable by volumetric analysis alone, and reflect alterations in specific frontostriatal circuitry in the disorder.
Bipolar affective disorder; frontostriatal; ventral striatum; caudate nucleus; limbic system
To understand and promote recovery from serious mental illnesses, it is important to study the perspectives of individuals who are coping with mental health problems. The aim of the present study was to examine identity-related themes in published self-narratives of family members and individuals with serious mental illness. It adds to the body of research addressing how identity affects the process of recovery and identifies potential opportunities for using published narratives to support individuals as they move toward positive identities that facilitate recovery.
Forty-five personal accounts from individuals with severe mental illness, which were published in two prominent research journals between 1998 and 2003, were qualitatively analysed.
Individuals with mental illness and their family members described a loss of self and identity that had to be overcome, or at least managed, for recovery to become possible. Writers described (i) a loss of self, (ii) the duality of (ill/well) selves, (iii) perceptions of normality, (iv) specific concerns about parenting and identity, and (v) hope and reconciliation.
Individuals’ stories of their experiences of severe mental illness describe severe challenges managing identity. Efforts to publish personal accounts that focus on strengths-based patient-centred stories, rather than on deficits, could be helpful to provide hope for patients. These published narratives highlight the importance of moving recovery and hope to the forefront among patient, family, and clinician groups. Increasing such information and role models can provide important resources to individuals working to redefine themselves and create a sense of self-worth and stable identity that will support productive, happy lives.
identity; mental health; personal accounts; recovery
This study indirectly tested the hypothesis that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have impaired neural connections between the amygdala, fusiform face area, and superior temporal sulcus, key processing nodes of the “social brain.” This would be evidenced by abnormalities in the major fibre tracts known to connect these structures, including the inferior longitudinal fasciculus and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus.
Magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging was performed on 20 right-handed males (ASD = 10, controls = 10) with a mean age 13.5 ± 4.0 years. Subjects were group-matched according to age, full-scale IQ, handedness, and ethnicity. Fractional anisotropy was used to assess structural integrity of major fibre tracts. Voxel-wise comparison of white matter fractional anisotropy was conducted between groups using ANCOVA adjusting for age, full-scale IQ, and brain volume. Volumes of interest were identified using predetermined probability and cluster thresholds. Follow-up tractography was performed to confirm the anatomic location of all volumes of interest.
All volumes of interest were regions of lower FA and were observed primarily in pericallosal regions and temporal lobes. As confirmed by tractography, affected white matter structures included the inferior longitudinal fasciculus/inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, superior longitudinal fasciculus, and corpus callosum/cingulum. Notably, some volumes of interest were adjacent to the fusiform face area, bilaterally, corresponding to involvement of the inferior longitudinal fasciculus. The largest effect sizes were noted for volumes of interest in the right anterior radiation of the corpus callosum/cingulum and right fusiform face area (inferior longitudinal fasciculus).
This study provides preliminary evidence of impaired neural connectivity in the corpus callosum/cingulum and temporal lobes involving the inferior longitudinal fasciculus/inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus and superior longitudinal fasciculus in ASDs. These findings provide preliminary support for aberrant neural connectivity between the amygdala, fusiform face area, and superior temporal sulcus – temporal lobe structures critical for normal social perception and cognition.
autism; connectivity; diffusion tensor imaging; social brain; white matter
This paper aims to present an overview of screening and safety considerations for the treatment of clinical depressive disorders and make recommendations for safety monitoring.
Data were sourced by a literature search using MEDLINE and a manual search of scientific journals to identify relevant articles. Draft guidelines were prepared and serially revised in an iterative manner until all co-authors gave final approval of content.
Screening and monitoring can detect medical causes of depression. Specific adverse effects associated with antidepressant treatments may be reduced or identified earlier by baseline screening and agent-specific monitoring after commencing treatment.
The adoption of safety monitoring guidelines when treating clinical depression is likely to improve overall physical health status and treatment outcome. It is important to implement these guidelines in the routine management of clinical depression.
Although children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at increased risk for later onset of antisocial personality disorder (APD) as adults, the utility of ADHD as either a comorbid diagnosis (ADHDc) or dimensional symptoms (ADHDd) in predicting behaviour and substance use problems in APD subjects has not been examined.
A total of 105 adult male offenders with Structured Clinical Interview for Axis II Disorders (SCID-II)-based DSM-III-R APD were studied in terms of: (i) psychopathy scores on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (PCL-R); (ii) ADHDc diagnostic comorbidity on clinically administered DSM-IV questionnaire; and (iii) ADHDd dimensional symptoms by means of Wender Utah Rating Scale (WURS) and Conners Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS) during a 12 month study period (May 2005–May 2006).
Sixty five per cent of APD subjects met criteria for ADHDc diagnostic comorbidity with significantly increased rates of childhood neglect, parental divorce and suicide attempt, but not of psychopathy. APD subjects with ADHDd symptoms were noted to have earlier onset and increased rate of self-injurious behaviour (SIB), suicide attempt, and psychopathy. The psychopathy scores, in turn, were predictive of earlier onset of SIB and behavioural problems.
Both ADHDc diagnostic comorbidity and ADHDd symptoms need to be assessed in APD subjects and the dimensional measures may be better in detecting earlier onset SIB, suicide attempt and other behavioural problems.
antisocial personality disorder; attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder; comorbidity; psychopathy
To provide a critical review of prevalence estimates of combat-related PTSD among military personnel and veterans, and of the relevant factors that may account for the variability of estimates within and across cohorts, including methodological and conceptual factors accounting for differences in prevalence rates across nations, conflicts/wars, and studies.
We examined MEDLINE and PsycINFO databases for literature on combat-related PTSD. The following terms were used independently and in combinations in this search: PTSD, combat, veterans, military, epidemiology, prevalence.
The point prevalence of combat-related PTSD in US military veterans since the Vietnam War ranges from about 2 – 17%. Studies of recent conflicts suggest that combat-related PTSD afflicts between 4 – 17% of US Iraq War veterans, but only 3 – 6% of returning UK Iraq War veterans. Thus, the prevalence range is narrower and tends to have a lower ceiling among combat veterans of non-US Western nations. Variability in prevalence is likely due to differences in sampling strategies; measurement strategies; inclusion and measurement of the DSM-IV clinically significant impairment criterion; timing and latency of assessment and potential for recall bias; and combat experiences. Prevalence rates are also likely affected by issues related to PTSD course, chronicity, and comorbidity; symptom overlap with other psychiatric disorders; and sociopolitical and cultural factors that may vary over time and by nation.
The disorder represents a significant and costly illness to veterans, their families, and society as a whole. However, further carefully conceptualized research is needed to advance our understanding of disorder prevalence, as well as associated information on course, phenomenology, protective factors, treatment, and economic costs.
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); prevalence; combat; veterans; military
To conduct postmortem human brain research into the neuropathological basis of schizophrenia, it is critical to establish cohorts that are well-characterised and well-matched. Our objective was to determine if specimen characteristics, including: diagnosis, age, postmortem interval (PMI), brain acidity (pH), and/or the agonal state of the subject at death related to RNA quality, and to determine the most appropriate reference gene mRNAs.
We selected a matched cohort of 74 cases (37 schizophrenia / schizoaffective disorder cases and 37 controls cases). Middle frontal gyrus tissue was pulverised, tissue pH was measured, RNA isolated for cDNA from each case, and RNA integrity number (RIN) measurements were assessed. Using RT-PCR, we measured nine housekeeper genes and calculated a geomean in each diagnostic group.
We found that the RINs were very good (mean 7.3) and all nine housekeeper control genes were significantly correlated with RIN. Seven of nine housekeeper genes were also correlated with pH, and two clinical variables, agonal state and duration of illness did have an effect on some control mRNAs. No major impact of PMI or freezer time on housekeeper mRNAs was detected. Our results show that people with schizophrenia had significantly less PPIA, and SDHA and tended to have less GUSB and B2M mRNA suggesting that these control genes may not be good candidates for normalisation.
In our cohort, less than 10% variability in RIN values was detected and the diagnostic groups were well matched overall. Our cohort was adequately powered (0.80–0.90) to detect mRNA differences (25%) due to disease. Our study suggests that multiple factors should be considered in mRNA expression studies of human brain tissues. When schizophrenia cases are adequately matched to control cases subtle differences in gene expression can be reliably detected.
postmortem brain; pH; RIN; PMI; housekeeping genes
To explore critically whether there is a robust basis for the concept of an obsessive–compulsive (OC) spectrum of disorders, and if so, which disorders should be included.
Selective literature review concentrating on three proposed members of the OC spectrum, namely body dysmorphic disorder, hypochondriasis and trichotillomania.
Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) itself is a heterogeneous condition or group of conditions, and this needs to be appreciated in any articulation of a ‘spectrum’ of OC disorders. The basis for ‘membership’ of the spectrum is inconsistent and varied, with varying level of support for inclusion in the putative spectrum.
A more fruitful approach may be to consider behaviours and dimensions in OCD and OC spectrum disorders, and that this should be encompassed in further developments of the OC spectrum model.
body dysmorphic disorder; hypochondriasis; obsessive—compulsive disorder; obsessive—compulsive spectrum; trichotillomania
To determine the clinical correlates of dysmorphic concern in persons seeking cosmetic enhancement from cosmetic physicians.
A questionnaire survey of 137 patients attending the practices of two cosmetic physicians.
Four subjects (2.9%; 95% CI = 0.8%–7.3%) had a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), but many more expressed overconcern with physical appearance (‘dysmorphic concern’). Dysmorphic concern accounted for a substantial amount of the variance for mood, social anxiety, and impairment in work and social functioning, while concerns related to how self or others perceive the putative flaw in appearance, impacted significantly on work and leisure activities, but did not apparently influence mood and social anxiety to any significant degree.
Dysmorphic concern is a broad dimensional construct that is related to both inter- and intrapsychic distress and disablement associated with people seeking cosmetic enhancement
body dysmorphic disorder; cosmetic physicians; depression; dysmorphic concern; social anxiety
This study was to investigate factors influencing the length of stay and predictors for the risk of readmission at an acute psychiatric inpatient unit.
Two comparative studies were embedded in a retrospective cross-sectional clinical file audit. A randomly selected 226 episodes of admissions including 178 patients during a twelve-month period were reviewed. A total of 286 variables were collected and analysed. A case control study was employed in the study of length of stay. A retrospective cohort study was used to investigate the predictors for the risk of readmission.
Logistic regression analyses showed that 10 variables were associated with length of stay. Seclusion during the index admission, accommodation problems and living in an area lacking community services predicted longer stay. During the follow-up period 82 patients (46%) were readmitted. Cox regression analyses showed 9 variables were related to the risk of readmission. Six of these variables increased the risk of readmission, including history of previous frequent admission, risk to others at the time of the index admission and alcohol intoxication. More active and assertive treatment in the community post-discharge decreased the risk of readmission.
Length of stay is multifactorially determined. Behavioural manifestations of illness and lack of social support structures predicted prolonged length of stay. Good clinical practice did not necessarily translate to a shorter length of stay. Therefore, length of stay is predictable, but not readily modifiable within the clinical domain. Good clinical practice within the community following discharge likely reduces the risk of readmission. Quality of inpatient care does not influence the risk of readmission, which therefore raises a question about the validity of using the rate of readmission as an outcome measure of psychiatric inpatient care.
mental health; hospital readmission; length of stay; patient admission