Stress load during childhood affects psychopathology in psychiatric patients.

Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Germany.
BMC Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 2.23). 01/2008; 8:63. DOI: 10.1186/1471-244X-8-63
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Childhood stress and trauma have been related to adult psychopathology in different psychiatric disorders. The present study aimed at verifying this relationship for stressful experiences during developmental periods by screening stress load across life in adult psychiatric inpatients with different diagnoses compared to healthy subjects. In addition, a relationship between the amount of adverse experiences and the severity of pathology, which has been described as a 'building block' effect in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was explored for non-traumatic events in psychiatric disorders other than PTSD.
96 patients with diagnoses of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), schizophrenia, drug addiction, or personality disorders (PD) and 31 subjects without psychiatric diagnosis were screened for adverse experiences in childhood (before the age of six years), before onset of puberty, and in adulthood using the Early Trauma Inventory and the Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale. Effects of stress load on psychopathology were examined for affective symptoms, PTSD, and severity of illness by regression analyses and comparison of subgroups with high and low stress load.
High stress load in childhood and before puberty, but not in adulthood, was related to negative affect in all participants. In patients, high stress load was related to depressive and posttraumatic symptoms, severity of disorder, and the diagnoses of MDD and PD.
Results support the hypothesis of stress-sensitive periods during development, which may interact with genetic and other vulnerability factors in their influence on the progress of psychiatric disorders. A 'dose' effect of stress load on the severity of psychopathology is not restricted to the relationship between traumata and PTSD.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Early life stress (ELS) is known to have considerable influence on brain development and affective functioning. Previous studies in clinical populations have shown that hippocampus and amygdala, two central structures of limbic emotion processing circuits, are predominantly affected by early stress exposure. Given the inconsistent findings on ELS-related effects in healthy populations and the associations of ELS and affective functioning, the question arises which additional emotion-relevant variables need to be considered to better understand the effects of ELS. We therefore investigated the volume of hippocampus and amygdala in 25 high alexithymic (h-ALEX) and 25 low alexithymic (l-ALEX) individuals, which were matched with regard to ELS, but significantly differed in their degree of emotional functioning. Volumetric analyses were performed using FSL-FIRST, a method to automatically segment subcortical structures on T1-weighted magnetic resonance images. Alexithymia was assessed using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale and Bermond-Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire. ELS was assessed by Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and Early Trauma Inventory. Our data showed that ELS was negatively associated with right hippocampus volume in h-ALEX individuals, while there was no such association in the l-ALEX group. Furthermore, ELS was positively associated with left amygdala volume in l-ALEX individuals, but not in individuals with high levels of alexithymia. The present study emphasizes a substantial relationship between intrapersonal factors such as alexithymia and neural alterations related to the experience of ELS. Longitudinal study designs are necessary to pursue the question of how emotional abilities interact with individual adaptations to early stress exposure on the neural level. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Hippocampus 04/2014; · 5.49 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Objectives Morphological abnormalities have been reported for the hippocampi and amygdalae in young schizophrenia patients, but very little is known about the pattern of abnormalities in elderly schizophrenia patients. Here we investigated local structural differences in the hippocampi and amygdalae of elderly schizophrenia patients compared to healthy elderly subjects. We also related these differences to clinical symptom severity. Design 20 schizophrenia patients (mean age: 67.4±6.2 years, MMSE 22.8±4.4) and 20 healthy elderly subjects (70.3±7.5, 29.0±1.1) underwent high resolution magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. The Radial Atrophy Mapping technique was used to reconstruct the 3D shape of the amygdala and the hippocampus. Local differences in tissue reductions were computed between groups and permutation tests were run to correct for multiple comparisons, in statistical maps thresholded at p=0.05. Results Significant tissue reduction was observed bilaterally in the amygdala and hippocampus of schizophrenia patients. The basolateral-ventral-medial amygdalar nucleus showed the greatest involvement, with over 30% local tissue reduction. The centro-medial, cortical, and lateral nuclei were also atrophic in patients. The hippocampus showed significant tissue loss in the medio-caudal and antero-lateral aspects of CA1, and in medial section of its left head (pre- and para-subiculum;). In the left amygdala and hippocampus, local tissue volumes were significantly correlated with negative symptoms. Conclusions Tissue losses and altered morphology were found in elderly schizophrenia patients. . Tissue loss mapped to amygdalo-hippocampal subregions known to have bidirectional and specific connections with frontal cortical and limbic structures and was related to clinical severity.
    The American journal of geriatric psychiatry: official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry 01/2014; · 3.35 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Childhood exposure to severe or chronic trauma is an important risk factor for the later development of adult mental health problems, such as substance abuse. Even in nonclinical samples of healthy adults, persons with a history of significant childhood adversity seem to experience greater psychological distress than those without this history. Evidence from rodent studies suggests that early life stress may impair dopamine function in ways that increase risks for drug abuse. However, the degree to which these findings translate to other species remains unclear. This study was conducted to examine associations between childhood adversity and dopamine and subjective responses to amphetamine in humans. Following intake assessment, 28 healthy male and female adults, aged 18-29 years, underwent two consecutive 90-min positron emission tomography studies with high specific activity [(11)C]raclopride. The first scan was preceded by intravenous saline; the second by amphetamine (AMPH 0.3 mg/kg). Consistent with prior literature, findings showed positive associations between childhood trauma and current levels of perceived stress. Moreover, greater number of traumatic events and higher levels of perceived stress were each associated with higher ventral striatal dopamine responses to AMPH. Findings of mediation analyses further showed that a portion of the relationship between childhood trauma and dopamine release may be mediated by perceived stress. Overall, results are consistent with preclinical findings suggesting that early trauma may lead to enhanced sensitivity to psychostimulants and that this mechanism may underlie increased vulnerability for drug abuse.
    Psychopharmacology 01/2014; · 4.06 Impact Factor

Full-text (3 Sources)

Available from
May 22, 2014