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BMC Psychiatry

, 17:100

Personality disorders and disorders of adult behavior


BackgroundExposure to war-related trauma has long been recognised to have an adverse effect on mental health. We attempted to investigate whether people who have clinically significant personality-related problems 15 years after a war are more likely to have been exposed to severe war-related trauma than those who do not have significant personality difficulties.

MethodsA case –control study was conducted in southern Croatia, fifteen years after the 1991–1995 war. We recruited 268 participants: 182 cases who scored positively on the International Personality Disorder Examination scale IPDE, and 86 controls who were IPDE negative. Severity of war-related trauma was assessed according to the 17 items on the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire HTQ trauma event scale, which were considered to be of severe catastrophic nature based on the ICD-10 description of catastrophic trauma and the opinion of trauma experts. All participants also completed measures of mental health depression, anxiety and PTSD, social functioning and current substance misuse.

ResultsCases IPDE positive were eight times more likely to report exposure to severe war-related trauma than controls. This association increased after adjustments for demographic factors OR = 10.1, 95% CI 5.0 to 20.4. The types of severe trauma most frequently reported were either the participants’own life being in direct danger or witnessing extreme violence inflicted on others or the result of violence towards others murder, torture, seeing burned or disfigured bodies. Prevalences of depression, anxiety and PTSD were high among IPDE positive participants 15 years after exposure to war trauma. Their level of interpersonal dysfunction was considerably higher than that in controls OR = 10.39, 95% CI 3.51 to 30.75. Alcohol consumption in cases was significantly higher with a mean of 14.24 units per week sd = 11.03 when compared to controls whose mean number of alcohol units was 9.24 sd = 7.25, t 73 = 2.16, p < 0.05, mean difference 4.99 95% CI = 0.39 to 9.60. Similarly, a significantly higher number of cases reported current substance misuse 8.2% vs. 0.0% X 1, n = 268 = 7.51, p < 0.05.

ConclusionExposure to severe war-related trauma is a risk factor for interpersonal dysfunction15 years after people were exposed to an armed conflict. These findings have implications for assessing and meeting the long-term mental health needs of people in war-affected regions. Further research needs to be done to increase our understanding about the relationship between severe war trauma and personality related problems.

KeywordsWar Severe trauma PTSD Personality pathology AbbreviationsHTQHarvard trauma questionnaire

HSCL-25Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25

IPDEInternational Personality Disorder Examination

PTSDPost-traumatic stress disorder

SFQSocial Functioning Questionnaire

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Autor: Jasna Munjiza - Dolores Britvic - Maja Radman - Mike J. Crawford


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