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Role of psychological trauma in the cause and treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders

Laugharne, Jonathan; Lillee, Alyssa; Janca, Aleksandar

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: January 2010 - Volume 23 - Issue 1 - p 25–29
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3283345dc5
Personality disorders and neuroses: Edited by Charles B. Pull and Aleksandar Janca

Purpose of review The role of traumatic events in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder is well established but their importance in the other anxiety disorders and in depression is less clear. We have reviewed recent publications in the medical literature which add to current knowledge regarding the possible causative role of trauma and the efficacy of trauma-focused treatments in these disorders.

Recent findings A number of recent studies add further support to the notion that traumatic events increase vulnerability to a range of psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, pretrauma risk factors are shared across different anxiety and depressive disorders. Patients with partial rather than full post-traumatic stress disorder often have their post-traumatic symptoms subsumed within another anxiety or depressive diagnosis. There is very little data relating to trauma-focused treatment of disorders other than post-traumatic stress disorder.

Summary There is increasing evidence that clinicians should be cognizant of the possible role of traumatic experience in the cause of patients with diagnoses other than post-traumatic stress disorder. There is, however, a paucity of data for the efficacy of trauma-focused psychological interventions for disorders other than post-traumatic stress disorder and further research is therefore needed.

Community, Culture and Mental Health Unit, School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Correspondence to Dr Aleksandar Janca, Winthrop Professor and Head, School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, University of Western Australia, Medical Research Foundation Building, 50 Murray Street, Perth WA 6000, Australia Tel: +61 8 9224 0293; fax: +61 8 9224 0293; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.