Network analysis of COVID-19-related PTSD symptoms in China: The similarities and differences between the general population and PTSD sub-population

Fan Yang, Mingqi Fu, Ning Huang, Farooq Ahmed, Muhammad Shahid, Bo Zhang, Jing Guo*, Paul Lodder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Background and Objectives: 

Prevalent Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) negatively affected individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using network analyses, this study explored the construct of PTSD symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic in China to identify similarities and differences in PTSD symptom network connectivity between the general Chinese population and individuals reporting PTSD.

Methods: 

We conducted an online survey recruiting 2858 Chinese adults. PTSD symptoms were measured using the PCL-5 and PTSD was determined according to the DSM-5 criteria.

Results: 

In the general population, self-destructive/reckless behaviours were on average the most strongly connected to other PTSD symptoms in the network. The five strongest positive connections were found between 1) avoidance of thoughts and avoidance of reminders, 2) concentration difficulties and sleep disturbance, 3) negative beliefs and negative trauma-related emotions, 4) irritability/anger and self-destructive/reckless behaviours, and 5) hypervigilance and exaggerated startle responses. Besides, negative connections were found between intrusive thoughts and trauma-related amnesia and between intrusive thoughts and self-destructive/reckless behaviours. Among individuals reporting PTSD, symptoms such as flashbacks and self-destructive/reckless behaviours were on average most strongly connected to other PTSD symptoms in the network. The five strongest positive connections were found between 1) concentration difficulty and sleep disturbance, 2) intrusive thoughts and emotional cue reactivity, 3) negative beliefs and negative trauma-related emotions, 4) irritability/anger and self-destructive/reckless behaviour, and 5) detachment and restricted affect. In addition, a negative connection was found between intrusive thoughts and self-destructive/reckless behaviours.

Conclusion: 

Our results indicate similarly positive connections between concentration difficulty and sleep disturbance, negative beliefs and negative trauma-related emotions, and irritability/anger and self-destructive/reckless behaviours in the general and PTSD-reported populations. We argue that self-destructive/reckless behaviours are a core symptom of COVID-19 related PTSD, worthy of more attention in future psychiatric programmers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1997181
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • China/epidemiology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Self-Injurious Behavior/psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

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