Adam J. Noble and Thomas Schenk
Significant others (SOs), such as spouses and life partners, of patients who have survived subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) can experience psychiatric symptoms and psychosocial disability. The cause of such symptoms has not been established. Authors of the present study analyzed whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) subsequent to a loved one's SAH is a plausible explanation for these symptoms.
The authors examined a large representative sample of 86 patient/SO pairs 3.5 months postictus. All SOs were evaluated using a diagnostic PTSD measure, and coping skills were assessed. The cognitive, physical, and emotional status of patients was comprehensively examined.
Twenty-six percent of SOs met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, which represents a 3-fold increase in the rate expected within the general population. To establish the cause of PTSD, a logistic regression was performed, and results of this test showed that the use of maladaptive coping strategies was the best predictor of the disorder. A patient's level of disability held no significant association with the development of PTSD in his or her SO.
The elevated incidence of PTSD in SOs helps to explain why these persons report concerning levels of psychiatric symptomatology and psychosocial disability. Greater attention must be given to an SO's adjustment to the experience of having a loved one suffer an SAH. This need is all the more pertinent given that SOs often act as informal caregivers and that PTSD could interfere with their ability to effectively minister. Because bad coping skills seem to be the main cause of PTSD, teaching SOs better strategies might prevent the disorder and any resulting psychosocial disability.
Judith Covey, Adam J. Noble and Thomas Schenk
Patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and their close friends and family may be excessively fearful that the patient will have a recurrence, and such fears could play a critical role in the poor recovery shown by many patients The authors examined whether these fears could account for significant variance in psychosocial outcomes.
The authors prospectively studied a sample of 69 patients with SAH alongside their spouse, other family member, and/or close friend identified as their significant other (SO). The patient/SO pairs were assessed at 13 months postictus for their fears of recurrence and for health-related quality of life on the 8 domains of the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey.
The SOs were found to be significantly more fearful of SAH recurrence than the patients. The SO's fears also explained unique variance in the patient's recovery on 4 of the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey domains over and above the patient's own fears, demographic and/or neurological variables, and the patient's history of psychiatric or neurological problems. The domains affected reflected activity-based and functional aspects of the patient's quality of life as opposed to more general characteristics of their emotional well-being or physical health state.
The patient's recovery may be compromised if their spouse, close family, and/or friends are excessively fearful about their suffering a recurrence. Perhaps the SO's fears cause them to be overprotective of the patient and to restrict their day-to-day activities. Attention must therefore be given to the experience of having a loved one suffer from an SAH, and alleviating the caregiver's fears could help to promote a better outcome for the patient.