[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Altered affective processing has been proposed as mediating between early life stress (ELS) and subsequent psychopathology. The present study examined whether ELS influences affective cortical processing differently in psychiatric patients and healthy subjects. The number of stressful experiences before onset of puberty was assessed in 50 inpatients with diagnoses of Major Depressive Disorder, schizophrenia, drug addiction, or Borderline Personality Disorder and in 20 healthy comparison subjects. Subjects monitored pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures during magnetoencephalographic recording. Suppression of right-posterior activity 160-210 ms after stimulus onset was associated with certain diagnoses and high ELS. Results confirmed specific contributions of ELS versus adult stress, comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder, or depression.
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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.