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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Childhood maltreatment linked to greater symptom severity and poorer quality of life and function in social anxiety disorder

Naomi M Simon, Nannette N Herlands, Elizabeth H Marks, Catherine Mancini, Andrea Letamendi, Zhonghe Li, Mark H Pollack, Michael Van Ameringen, Murray B Stein
Depression and Anxiety 2009, 26 (11): 1027-32
19750554

BACKGROUND: There is a paucity of data examining the prevalence and impact of childhood maltreatment in patients presenting with a primary diagnosis of social anxiety disorder (SAD). We thus examined the presence of a broad spectrum of childhood maltreatment, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect, in treatment-seeking individuals with the generalized subtype of SAD (GSAD). We hypothesized that a history of childhood maltreatment would be associated with greater SAD symptom severity and poorer associated function.

METHODS: One hundred and three participants with a primary diagnosis of GSAD (mean age 37+/-14; 70% male) completed the well-validated, self-rated Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), as well as measures of SAD symptom severity and quality of life.

RESULTS: Fully 70% (n=72) of the GSAD sample met severity criteria for at least one type of childhood abuse or neglect as measured by the CTQ subscales using previously established thresholds. CTQ total score adjusted for age and gender was associated with greater SAD severity, and poorer quality of life, function, and resilience. Further, the number of types of maltreatment present had an additive effect, with specific associations for emotional abuse and neglect with SAD severity.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite the use of validated assessments, our findings are limited by the retrospective and subjective nature of self-report measures used to assess childhood maltreatment. Nonetheless, these data suggest a high rate of childhood maltreatment in individuals seeking treatment for GSAD, and the association of maltreatment with greater disorder severity suggests that screening is clinically prudent.

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