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Emotional blunting in patients with depression. Part III: relationship with psychological trauma

Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2022 Jun 21;21(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s12991-022-00395-1.


BACKGROUND: This international online survey investigated the experience and impact of emotional blunting in the acute and remission phases of depression from the perspective of patients and healthcare providers (HCPs). This paper presents data on the history and severity of psychological trauma and its potential impact on emotional blunting in major depressive disorder (MDD); differences between patient and HCP perceptions are explored.

METHODS: Patient respondents (n = 752) were adults with a diagnosis of depression who were currently taking antidepressant therapy and reported emotional blunting during the past 6 weeks. HCPs provided details on two eligible patients: one in the acute phase of depression and one in remission from depression (n = 766). Trauma was assessed using questions based on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire; emotional blunting was assessed using the Oxford Depression Questionnaire (ODQ). Multivariate regression analyses were applied to examine the relationship between trauma and ODQ score.

RESULTS: A history of any childhood or recent traumatic event was reported by 97% of patients in the self-assessed cohort and for 83% of those in the HCP-assessed cohort (difference, p < 0.01). Patients were more likely than HCPs to feel that this trauma had contributed to their/the patient’s depression (58% vs 43%, respectively; p < 0.01) and that the depression was more severe because of trauma (70% vs 61%, respectively; p < 0.01). Emotional blunting was significantly worse in patients who reported severe trauma than in those who had not experienced severe trauma (mean total ODQ score, 90.1 vs 83.9, respectively; p < 0.01). In multivariate regression analyses, experiencing both severe childhood and recent trauma had a statistically significant impact on ODQ total score (p = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: A high proportion of patients with depression and emotional blunting self-reported exposure to childhood and/or recent traumatic events, and emotional blunting was more severe in patients who reported having experienced severe trauma. However, history of psychological trauma in patients with MDD appeared to be under-recognized by HCPs. Improved recognition of patients who have experienced psychological trauma and are experiencing emotional blunting may permit more targeted therapeutic interventions, potentially resulting in improved treatment outcomes.

PMID:35729621 | DOI:10.1186/s12991-022-00395-1

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