Epidemiological, phenomenological, and treatment aspects of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents
Thesis (PhD (Psychiatry))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.
Many gaps remain in our current state of knowledge about the epidemiology, phenomenology, neurobiology, and psychopharmacology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children and adolescents. Empirical evidence, particularly in non-Western settings, is sparse and there is little convergent understanding of the interrelationship of epidemiological factors, PTSD symptom expression, full and partial syndromes, disorders comorbid with PTSD, and pharmacotherapeutic interventions. Clinicians are faced with the difficult task of treating this often complicated and debilitating disorder in youth in the absence of data from well-controlled clinical trials. The studies detailed here are a point of departure for understanding the confluence that exists between epidemiological, phenomenological, and pharmacotherapeutic aspects of adolescent PTSD. Two studies were conducted to investigate the prevalence and effects of violence exposure and PTSD, clinical and functional correlates of full and partial syndromes, and associated gender differences in school and clinic samples, respectively. Two preliminary open-label trials assessed the efficacy and safety of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) in adolescents with at least moderate severity PTSD. The results indicate that (i) partial PTSD is a common nosological entity in adolescents, (ii) gender-related differences in PTSD, even if not manifest in differences in prevalence (i.e., in the rates of trauma exposure and full and partial PTSD), may well manifest in symptom expression (i.e., higher symptom burden in girls), associated morbidity, and functional impairment, and (iii) SSRIs may be effective in treating core PTSD symptoms in this age group. While not yet demonstrated, the partial subtype may have similar biological underpinnings to full PTSD in adolescents and may benefit from similar pharmacotherapeutic interventions. This is an area deserving of further investigation. Controlled SSRI data are needed to establish if these should be agents of choice for paediatric PTSD.