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Mental Health in the News: February 16, 2023

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Mental Health in the News

A New Study Links the 2020 Presidential Election with Depression and Anxiety

A new study from the University of Nevada’s College of Business showed evidence that the 2020 presidential election increased the mental health struggles of Americans.

The Household Pulse Survey (HSP) gathered information nationwide on mental health weekly from April 2020 through July 2021, then every other week until December 2021. The survey’s intention was to collect data on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted mental health. The HPS asked participants about their symptoms of depression and anxiety, usage of prescription drugs, and therapy appointments. 

Dr. Sankar Mukhopadhyay, professor of economics and director of graduate studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, used the data compiled by the HPS to analyze the effects of the election on mental health. 

“Although no national studies had been done [on the impact of the presidential elections on mental health], the HPS was already collecting the data to measure the impact of COVID-19 on mental health,” said Dr. Mukhopadhyay.

In his research, Dr. Mukhopadhyay found that symptoms of depression and anxiety, use of prescription drugs, and mental health appointments all increased before the November election and decreased after it was over. In fact, the levels of anxiety and depression were higher during election month than in April 2020, when mandatory stay-at-home orders were issued due to the spreading pandemic. 

The research methods Dr. Mukhopadhyay used ruled out any other factors that might explain the increase, such as seasonality or rise in COVID-19 cases. He said that elections are becoming increasingly stressful and are impacting everyone, regardless of which party or candidate they support. 

To read the original news article, click here.

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Doctors Are Raising Awareness About the Prevalence of Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Child psychiatrist Dr. Ludivine Franchitto gave an urgent message at 2022’s Infogyn conference: women must be screened for postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as soon as possible after giving birth. She added that maternity ward caregivers should also be monitored for PTSD symptoms, given their constant exposure to the complications and trauma of childbirth.

What is PTSD?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) states that people develop PTSD after being exposed to an actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. People who witness traumatic events or are repeatedly exposed to stories or details about them can also develop PTSD.  

Some symptoms of PTSD include negative changes in mood, upsetting dreams/persistent and intrusive memories of the event, and needing to avoid sights and sounds that remind the person of the event. If a person has these symptoms for more than one month, they may meet the criteria for PTSD and benefit from treatment

While research shows a wide variability of PTSD rates in the general population, a combination of studies analyzed in 2016 revealed a 5.9% rate of the condition specifically caused by childbirth.Women who had severe complications during pregnancy were at a higher risk to develop postpartum PTSD (18.5%) versus those without any complications (4%). 

Effects of Postpartum PTSD on Children

In her presentation, Dr. Franchitto warned that early detection is crucial to the health of the child as well as the mother.

She found that children of mothers with postpartum PTSD tend to have lower birth weight and a shorter breast-feeding period.

“If the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder aren’t treated after delivery, they tend to get worse over the period of one to 6 months following the child’s birth,” she said.

To read the original news article, click here.

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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder May Be Linked To A Higher Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

A new study shows that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) share a genetic risk. This suggests that PTSD may increase the likelihood of hypertension and coronary artery disease (CAD). 

“Individuals with PTSD are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with CVD (eg, myocardial infarction, stroke),” said researchers of the study. “The evidence for this link is so compelling that the National Institutes of Health convened a working group to determine gaps in the literature, including the need for large-scale genomic studies to identify shared genetic risk.”

Data analysis from a healthcare biobank database and summary statistics from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of existing PTSD and CVD studies revealed compelling genetic interaction between PTSD and CVD. Additionally, PTSD and major depressive disorder (MDD) might be risk factors for hypertension and CAD. 

One explanation for this link is that people with PTSD experience symptoms of an elevated sympathetic arousal, such as increased heart rate or constant vigilance. In prolonged states, these symptoms can lead to hypertension. However, the research team cautions that more research is needed to verify these findings.

“Our findings provide support for this mechanism,” they wrote, “but we cannot exclude the possibility that confounding factors or mediating effects (eg, diet, smoking) are responsible for these associations, which should be examined in future research.”

Knowing that these two diseases are linked will help physicians better identify risk factors for CVD. When determining treatment for PTSD, healthcare providers should bear in mind that their patients may benefit from screening and/or preventative care for CVD. 

To read the original news article, click here.

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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