The Relationship between Childhood Abuse and Mood Disorders: The Effect of Gender, Family Psychiatric History and Substance Abuse Co-morbidity

By Katrina M. Gurguis, Helen Just, Delia Kothmann-Paskos and George Gurguis.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Childhood abuse (CA) has been implicated in a variety of psychiatric disorders. In this study we investigated the prevalence of CA in 590 adult psychiatric patients (344 men, 245 women), who were admitted to a psychiatric emergency room. Patients were grouped into six diagnostic categories, namely, major depressive disorder (MDD) (N = 165), depression not otherwise specified (NOS) (N = 61), bipolar disorder (BD) (N = 138), mood disorder NOS (N = 22), psychotic disorders (N = 159), and ‘Other’ (N = 45). The prevalence of CA in this cohort was 36.71%, which was significantly higher than in the general population as reported by the Center for Disease Control (X² = 102.96, p < 0.001). CA was significantly higher in women than in men in the total cohort (47.44% vs. 28.72%, X² = 18.60, p = 0.00). Gender difference was particularly observed in MDD (45.45% vs. 25.97%, X² = 5.93, p < .01), and was a trend in BD (58.33% vs. 40.74%, X² = 3.52, p < 0.06). CA was significantly higher in patients with family psychiatric history (47.20% vs. 26.88%, X² = 18.59, p = 0.00). This was observed in MDD (44.58% vs. 20.75%, X² = 8.04, p < 0.005), BD (59.49% vs. 28.57%, X² = 7.91, p < 0.005) and psychotic disorders (40.38% vs. 23.94%, X² = 3.80, p < 0.05).
Among patients with a family psychiatric history, CA was significantly higher in women than in men in the total cohort (57.66% vs. 38.85%, X² = 8.76, p < 0.003), specifically in MDD (56.41% vs. 34.09%, X² = 4.17, p < 0.04) and in BD (70.00% vs. 48.72%, X² = 3.71, p < 0.05). Curiously, co-morbidity with substance abuse by itself was not associated with a significantly higher prevalence of CA in the total cohort (X² = 0.571, p = ns). Only patients with psychotic disorders and co-morbid substance abuse had significantly higher prevalence of CA (61.19% vs. 43.54%, X² = 3.80, p < 0.05). In patients with co-morbid substance abuse, CA again was significantly higher in women than in men in the total cohort (52.20% vs. 22.22%, X² = 31.35, p = 0.00), particularly in MDD (48.94% vs. 25.81%, X² = 6.22, p < 0.01), with a trend in BD (60.45% vs. 40.91%, X² = 3.33, p < 0.07). Finally, CA was associated with significantly higher incidence of suicide attempts (42.43% vs. 25.15%, X² = 14.36, p = 0.00), and higher incidence of homosexual orientation (61.90% vs. 36.32%, X² = 5.33, p < 0.02), but was not significantly correlated with academic achievement.
Results of this investigation establish a significant association between CA and mood disorders, and underscore the contribution of CA to the high incidence of depression in women. A positive family psychiatric history is a risk factor for CA, particularly in women. Co-morbid substance abuse was not particularly related to CA and seems to be an epiphenomenon perhaps related to the primary underlying mood disorder.

Keywords: Childhood Abuse, Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Substance Abuse, Sexual Orientation, Family Psychiatric History

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp.253-264. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 886.007KB).

Katrina M. Gurguis

Student, St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas, USA

Undergraduate at St. Edward’s University, Psychology Major, Dean Scholar, American Psychological Association Student Affiliate, Psychology Society at St. Edward’s University.

Helen Just

Ph. D., University of Texas at Austin, Southwestern Psychological Association, Society for the teaching of Psychology, Association for Psychological Science, Southwest Teachers of Psychology, Professor of Psychology, Associate Dean of School or Behavioral Sciences, St. Edward’s University. DeLayne Hudspeth Award for Innovative Instruction, 4 book chapters.

Delia Kothmann-Paskos

Ph. D., Rice University, Assistant Professor, St. Edward’s University, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, St. Edward’s University Presidential Excellence Grant, 5 publications.

Dr. George Gurguis

Associate Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas, USA

M. B., B. Ch., Cairo University School of Medicine, Diplomat America Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (Psychiatry), John E. Fogarty Fellow – National Institutes of Health, Society for Neuroscience, Society of BiologicalPsychiatry, Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologuicum (CINP), Associate Professor of Psychiatry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Canter, Dallas VA Medical Center, Physician’s Recognition Award, 30 publications, 6 book chapters.


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