Nightmares are common but underreported in US military personnel

A new study shows that a high percentage of military personnel with sleep disturbances met criteria for nightmare disorder, but few of them reported nightmares as a reason for sleep evaluation. Those with nightmare disorder had an increased risk of other sleep and mental health disorders.

Results show that 31 percent of military participants had clinically significant nightmares, and trauma-related nightmares occurred in 60 percent of them. Participants who met criteria for nightmare disorder were five times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), four times more likely to have depression, three times more likely to have anxiety, and two times more likely to have insomnia. Despite their common presence, nightmares were reported as a sleep-related concern by only 3.9 percent of military personnel.

“This research provides a basis for furthering the study and knowledge of nightmares in survivors of traumatic experiences,” said principal investigator Dr. Jennifer Creamer, medical director of the Sleep Medicine Center at Martin Army Medical Center in Fort Benning, Georgia. “Treatment of nightmares can lead to improvement in sleep, quality of life, and other disorders such as suicidality.”

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Psychologist examines methods of classifying mental disorders

Mental illnesses, such as major depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, affect nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many aspects of these illnesses remain something of a mystery, despite the progress made in understanding them by researchers studying these disorders in the last half century.

Even so, clinicians and researchers, together with patients and their families, have made significant strides identifying and treating mental illnesses. Two major diagnostic manuals — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), used primarily in the U.S., and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), used internationally — provide clinicians, researchers and patients a structured approach to diagnosing mental health. Further, the federal National Institute of Mental Health also uses a new framework for researching mental illness, called the Research Domain Criteria, or R-DoC.

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Many cancer survivors are living with PTSD

A recent study showed approximately one-fifth of patients with cancer experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) several months after diagnosis, and many of these patients continued to live with PTSD years later. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings highlight the need for early identification, careful monitoring, and treatment of PTSD in cancer survivors.

Although PTSD is primarily known to develop in individuals following a traumatic event such as a serious accident or natural disaster, it can also occur in patients diagnosed with cancer. Because PTSD in cancer has not been explored thoroughly, Caryn Mei Hsien Chan, PhD, of the National University of Malaysia, and her colleagues studied 469 adults with various cancer types within one month of diagnosis at a single oncology referral center. Patients underwent additional testing after six months and again after four years.

Clinical evaluations revealed a PTSD incidence of 21.7% at 6-months follow-up, with rates dropping to 6.1% at 4-years follow-up. Although overall rates of PTSD decreased with time, roughly one-third of patients initially diagnosed with PTSD were found to have persistent or worsening symptoms four years later.

Full story at Science Daily

9/11 WTC responders show increased physical disability due to PTSD

A new study of more than 1,100 WTC responders cared for at the Stony Brook University WTC Wellness Program indicates a significant increase in physical disability among the responders.

The findings, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, revealed that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with physical limitations (such as problems with walking, getting out of a chair, and balance). PTSD symptoms worsened among individuals with physical limitations.

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Psychological toll of shame in military personnel

Feelings of shame may make the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more severe in current and former members of the Armed Services.

That is the conclusion of research published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology by a team led by Dr Katherine C. Cunningham from the Department of Veterans Affairs Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

In the forthcoming article, Dr Cunningham and colleagues say, “The military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in increased awareness of the impact of war on military service members. Many returning service members and veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, which is associated with poorer physical health, unemployment, legal problems, relationship conflict and reduced quality of life.”

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Predicting depression and PTSD before deployment could help soldiers cope

A set of validated, self-reported questions administered early in a soldier’s career could predict mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after return from deployment, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Psychology.

The questions assess 14 psychological attributes such as adaptability, coping ability and optimism. They could be used to identify high-risk individuals and provide them with psychological and social resources to help them cope with stressors of deployment including combat trauma and extended separation from friends and family, researchers at Naval Postgraduate School and Research Facilitation Laboratory, USA suggest.

In addition to scoring psychological health attributes before deployment, the researchers also generated an individual, composite risk score for each soldier using baseline psychological attributes and demographic information such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, and military occupation group. They found that out of those whose score classified them as being at highest risk for psychological health disorders (i.e. at the top 5% of the score), 31% screened positive for depression, while 27% screened positive for PTSD after return from deployment.

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Scientific discovery explains why stress hormone can prevent disorders after exposure to traumatic event

People who have suffered from traffic accidents, war combat, terrorist attacks and exposure to other traumatic events have an increased likelihood of developing diseases. These diseases can be psychological and physical, such as heart problems and cancer. The current preventive treatments based on psychological support and drugs are effective in some cases. Unfortunately, these treatments do not work for many individuals. It is also known that the earlier the treatment starts the better to prevent future negative consequences.

Researchers at the Institut de Neurociències of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB, Spain) have discovered in a study with mice and humans that the Ppm1f (Protein phosphatase 1f) gene expression is one of the most highly regulated after exposure to traumatic stress. Moreover, Ppm1f is associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. The main function of Ppm1f is to regulate the activity of the protein Camk2 (Calmodulin-dependent protein kinase 2), which is key in many processes of the human body such as memory, the heart’s functioning and the immune system.

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Certain characteristics linked with ISIS anxiety

A new study examines the characteristics of individuals who are most likely to have anxiety concerning threats posed by ISIS.

In the study of 1007 adult Israelis, being female, having a lower socio-economic status, and having elevated levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were related to ISIS anxiety. Exposure to ISIS in the media and having low resilience were also linked to ISIS anxiety. Finally, the PTD-ISIS relationship was especially pronounced when the mental resources of resilience and optimism were low. Resilienceis defined mainly as a resource aimed at dealing with a current threat, while optimism is defined as a resource related to future outcomes.

Full story of characteristics linked to ISIS anxiety at Science Daily

Amygdala activity predicts posttraumatic stress disorder

Neuroimaging measures of emotional brain function after acute trauma may help predict whether a person will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry. Led by senior author Dr. Kerry Ressler of Emory University in Georgia and Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, the study reports an association between the activity of two key brain regions involved in emotional regulation, the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), shortly after trauma and symptoms of PTSD that emerged within the following year.

“This study introduces a new potential biomarker of PTSD, highlighting new roles for neuroimaging in PTSD research,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. The identification of a PTSD biomarker has exciting implications for limiting or preventing symptoms of the disorder.

Full story of neuroimaging in PTSD research at Science Daily

Deployment stress impacts well-being through different mental health issues for female and male vets

Experiencing stress-related mental health issues following deployment exposures increases risk of reduced well-being in other life domains in the years following military service for veterans. Gender plays an important role in these associations.

The findings, which appear in Clinical Psychological Science, have implications for better understanding the challenges female and male veterans face upon returning from service and may lead to ways care can be optimized with consideration of the role gender may play.

According to the researchers, previous studies have shown a relationship between the development of mental health issues, particularly PTSD, and decreased functioning and satisfaction with family and work for veterans. However, gender often has been overlooked as a variable, and the role of particular deployment stressors have not been extensively examined. “Our study illustrates the complex interplay between specific military exposures, mental health, and subsequent post deployment well-being between the genders,” explained lead author Brian Smith, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and research psychologist in the Women’s Health Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System.

Full story of deployment stress at Science Daily