Infectious Disease

Children with mass trauma are more likely to develop panic disorder

April 28, 2021

2 min read

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Children exposed to mass trauma were at increased risk of developing panic disorder, according to a study examining the psychiatric effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on teenagers.

“While studies in adults have linked individual trauma exposure, including retrospective reports of trauma exposure in children, to risk [for] Panic disorder, few studies have looked at whether and to what extent exposure to mass catastrophes can increase risk [for] Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents ” Renee D. Goodwin, PhD, MPH, of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and colleagues wrote in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. “For young people in China, experiencing ‘tragic scenes’ in connection with an earthquake was associated with panic disorder. Other than testimony, little is known about various types of trauma exposure, including indirect exposure, and their association with panic disorder. “

Infographic data derived from: Goodwin RD et al. J Psychiatr Res. 2021; doi: 10.1016 / j.jpsychires.2021.04.001.

In the current study, the researchers wanted to investigate whether exposure to mass trauma events, particularly the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was related to the risk of panic disorder in children, fluctuations in panic disorder depending on the severity of exposure, and sociodemographic characteristics and possible interactions of individual exposure and mass trauma with the risk of panic disorder. They analyzed data from 6,991 students in grades 6 through 12 who attended a New York education committee after September. 11 Needs Assessment Study, an epidemiological survey study of likely mental health disorders in New York school children exposed to the attack. Participants completed the surveys 6 months after the attack. A three-level variable of severe, moderate, and mild served as the primary measure of exposure. Goodwin and colleagues defined direct exposure as experiences including witnessing the attack in person, being injured in the attack, being in or near the cloud of dust and smoke, being brought to safety, or being very concerned about the safety of one loved one made. Indirect exposure included experiences such as killing or injuring a family member in the attack, or seeing an attack by a family member who got away unharmed. The researchers used the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Predictive Scales to assess likely panic disorder for the past month. In addition, they used the Adolescent Trauma Exposure Plan at the University of California at Los Angeles to assess prior exposure to individual trauma, and they included history of major violent injuries after being through the war and additional ones Items specific to recent New York City events.

The results showed an association between severe exposure (adjusted OR = 2; 95% CI, 1.1-3.7) to the 9/11 seizure and increased risk of likely panic disorder compared to mild exposure. Greater exposure to the attack appeared to increase the prevalence of panic disorder in all socio-demographic groups. Goodwin and colleagues found a connection between previous individual trauma exposure and an increased risk of panic disorders (aOR = 2.4; 95% CI, 1.6-2.5); However, they observed no evidence of an association between previous individual trauma exposure and exposure to the 9/11 attack.

“From a clinical perspective, these data suggest that children exposed to mass trauma are at increased risk of developing panic disorder and that children with a history of trauma are particularly at risk,” the researchers wrote. “Because there are effective treatments for panic disorder, it may be clinically appropriate to focus on panic disorder in children during psychological evaluation and treatment after a massive traumatic event. Given the increase in direct and indirect exposure to mass trauma (e.g. media exposure) and the association of panic disorder with subsequent psychiatric problems in adolescents, successful intervention can have long-term effects. “

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