8 Mar 2016

Is previous trauma adequately documented for female psychiatric inpatients?

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch 

Traumatic events can lead to long-lasting psychological changes in an affected person. Patients presenting with serious mental health issues are more likely to have experienced emotional or physical trauma in the past than healthy individuals.

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni - Director of MAPrc
and senior author of this study
Researchers from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) aimed to investigate the extent to which clinicians record previous trauma events. They then analysed this information to identify if it was incorporated into diagnosis and treatment of female psychiatric inpatients.

One hundred inpatients were selected for the study, with psychotic illnesses being the most prevalent primary diagnosis. For just over half these participants, there was no record of whether or not there was a history of trauma. Of the 49 patients asked about trauma history, 84% (41 patients) responded positively though only 3% of these documented cases had a specific description of the trauma. For 34 (of the 41 with trauma history) subjects, no mention was made of potentially trauma-associated psychiatric symptoms such as flashbacks or emotional numbing. This study also found that current drug use and/or a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder were associated with a higher likelihood of documented trauma.

As such, this study concluded that clinicians dealing with patients with mental illnesses need to be more proactive about documenting a comprehensive history of trauma to better inform patient management.

Reference: Xiao CLGavrilidis ELee SKulkarni JDo mental health clinicians elicit a history of previous trauma in female psychiatric inpatients? J Ment Health. 2016 Feb (online)


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