Monday, January 22, 2007

Is There a Post-Abortion Trauma Syndrome?

asks a lengthy New York Times magazine article. The author lists the studies that say there isn't, interviews the scholars who say there isn't. But she evidently is unaware of any article published last year that shows a significant risk of mental health problems associated with abortion. The study is "Abortion in Young Women and Subsequent Mental Health," by David Fergusson, L. John Horwood and Elizabeth M. Ridder, and published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2006; 47 (1) 16-24.
This study was widely discussed when it came out last summer. They control for previous mental health problems, as well as things like early sexual initiation and drug use. They also test the hypothesis that more depressed women are more likely to have abortions. Even controlling for these possible confounding factors, they find that women who were not pregnant, or who carried a pregnancy to term, had overall rate of mental disorders between 58% and 67% of the mental health problems experienced by women who had abortions.
This study showed that women who didn't get pregnant and women who had a baby had similar kinds and levels of mental health problems, and that both these groups had fewer mental disorders than women who terminated a pregnancy. Pregnant women who carried to term had 35% of the level of depression, 24% of the level of suicidal fantasies and 15% of the level of illicit drug dependence than did women who terminated pregnancies.
I wonder why the New York Times reporter didn't find this study?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia,

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a term for certain severe psychological consequences of exposure to, or confrontation with, stressful experiences that the person experiences as highly traumatic.[1] Clinically, such experiences involve actual or threatened death, serious physical injury, or a threat to physical and/or psychological integrity, to a degree that usual psychological defences are incapable of coping with the impact. It is occasionally called post-traumatic stress reaction to emphasize that it is a routine result of traumatic experience rather than a manifestation of a pre-existing psychological weakness on the part of the patient. The presence of a PTSD response is influenced by the intensity of the experience, its duration, and the individual person involved.

It is possible for individuals to experience traumatic stress without manifesting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as indicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and also for people to experience traumatic situations and not develop PTSD. In fact, most people who experience traumatic events will not develop PTSD. For most people, the emotional effects of traumatic events tends to subside after several months; if they last longer, then a psychiatric disorder may be diagnosed. PTSD is thought to be primarily an anxiety disorder and should not be confused with normal grief and adjustment after traumatic events.

Symptoms of PTSD can include the following: nightmares, flashbacks, emotional detachment or numbing of feelings (emotional self-mortification or dissociation), insomnia, avoidance of reminders and extreme distress when exposed to the reminders ("triggers"), irritability, hypervigilance, memory loss, and excessive startle response, clinical depression and anxiety, loss of appetite. It is also possible for a person suffering from PTSD to exhibit one or more other comorbid psychiatric disorders; these disorders often include clinical depression (or bipolar disorder), general anxiety disorder and a variety of addictions. PTSD may have a delayed onset of months, years or even decades and may be triggered by an external factor or factors. Some believe that panic disorder and PTSD are closely related, since panic disorders usually involve fear of a past panic attack.