Loss of a loved one can trigger psychiatric disorders

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The unexpected loss of a loved one can trigger a range of psychiatric disorders even in people with no history of mental illness. Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia’s School of Social Work conducted the first study to show the association of acute bereavement and mania in a large population sample.

Risk can double for people over 30

In people over 30 years, the sudden death of a loved one roughly doubled the risk for new-onset mania. For people over 50 years, the risk increases more than five-fold. There was no significant effect on people younger than 30. Death of a loved one raises the risk of major depression excessive use of alcohol, and anxiety disorders including panic disorder, PTSD and phobias.

One of many factors that should be considered by health practitioners

“Our findings should alert clinicians to the possible onset of a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including disorders such as mania, after an unexpected death in otherwise healthy individuals,” noted Katherine Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and principal investigator. “However, it is also notable that the majority of individuals in the present study did not develop mental health issues in the wake of an unexpected death of a loved one.”

Loss has an effect on sense of self for older adults

“Clinically, our results highlight the importance of considering a possible role for loss of close personal relationships through death in assessment of psychiatric disorders. When someone loses a close personal relationship even late in life, there is a profound effect on sense of self and self-reflection. These data indicate that, even in adults with no history of psychiatric disorders, it is also a vulnerable risk period for the onset of a potentially disabling psychiatric disorder,” explained Dr. Keyes.

Source: American Journal of Psychiatry, MedicalNewsToday


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