Refugees with PTSD regulate stress differently

March 15, 2017 by Bengt Arnetz , Sarina Gleason, Michigan State University
Bengt Arnetz, a professor of family medicine in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, has found that refugees diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder regulate stress differently than those who don't have the disorder, but may have experienced similar suffering. Credit: Michigan State University

New Michigan State University research has found that refugees diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder regulate stress differently than those who don't have the disorder, but may have experienced similar suffering.

PTSD is a disorder that makes a person re-experience a traumatic event.

"What we discovered was that a gene associated with a person's mental health became overactive in with PTSD and wasn't able to respond the right way when working with the body's stress defense system," said Bengt Arnetz, a professor of family medicine who led the study.

The methyl CpG binding protein 2 gene, or MECP2, helps control the normal function of nerve cells and plays an important role in mental health and the body's ability to handle stress.

An individual's stress defense system, known as the hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical axis, or HPA, is activated when he or she is exposed to mental pressure or trauma and then calms down when the event is over. In refugees with PTSD, this built-in security system doesn't respond correctly and continues to overreact.

The findings are being presented at the American Psychosomatic Society's annual meeting on March 18.

It's estimated that up to a quarter of the refugees entering the United States have PTSD.

"Often times, those who come to the U.S. in search of a better life have been exposed to severe in one way or another," Arnetz said. "Some of this trauma can include coping with poor environmental conditions for many years and even violent situations as a result of war."

The federally funded study looked at 66 male and female refugees from Syria who had arrived in the United States within a month's time. Each were interviewed and given a validated medical survey to determine if they had PTSD.

The survey, known as the PTSD Checklist-Civilian included questions on socioeconomics, exposure to trauma, as well as symptoms associated with the disorder. Refugees with scores above 30 were classified as having PTSD and were compared to those with lower scores.

Researchers also took blood samples from study participants in order to analyze the MECP2 gene activity.

Arnetz said his findings provide important information that will help advance this type of research and assist individuals who are focused on aiding refugees once they arrive.

"Because refugees have typically experienced terrible environmental factors such as air pollution, as well as severe violence and trauma, it's important to study the impact of these things on the brain and body's physiology in order to optimize the health, well being and social integration of this population," he said.

Explore further: Posttraumatic stress and alcohol use disorders hit American-Indian and Alaskan-Native men the hardest

Related Stories

Posttraumatic stress and alcohol use disorders hit American-Indian and Alaskan-Native men the hardest

January 30, 2017
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after a traumatic event or events. Although it is most often associated with military personnel exposed to the trauma of combat, it can also disproportionately affect vulnerable ...

Parents don't notice children's PTSD, may need support themselves

November 8, 2016
Young children may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for years without it being recognised by their parents according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Study reveals areas of the brain impacted by PTSD

January 23, 2017
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and the VA Boston Healthcare System are one step closer to understanding the specific nature of brain changes associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Shooting, gang violence exposure leads to PTSD

December 8, 2016
The violence that women in disadvantaged neighborhoods experience and witness can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and full diagnoses, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study that examined a ...

Half of refugees traumatised: German psychotherapists

September 16, 2015
At least half of the refugees who have come to Germany have mental health problems because of trauma suffered in war or during their dangerous escapes, said the chamber of psychotherapists Wednesday.

Study finds American Indian adults exposed to early life trauma more likely to develop PTSD and poor health

December 12, 2016
American Indian adults who were exposed to an early life trauma are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and poor physical health in adulthood according to a study recently published in the American ...

Recommended for you

Young children use physics, not previous rewards, to learn about tools

February 23, 2018
Children as young as seven apply basic laws of physics to problem-solving, rather than learning from what has previously been rewarded, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge.

Study: Tinder loving cheaters—dating app facilitates infidelity

February 23, 2018
The popular dating app Tinder is all about helping people form new relationships. But for many college-aged people, it's also helping those in relationships cheat on their romantic partners.

Looking for the origins of schizophrenia

February 23, 2018
Schizophrenia may be related to neurodevelopmental changes, including brain's inability to generate an appropriate vascular system, according to new study resulted from a partnership between the D"Or Institute for Research ...

Color of judo uniform has no effect on winning

February 22, 2018
New research on competitive judo data finds a winning bias for the athlete who is first called, regardless of the colour of their uniform. This unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, puts to rest the debate on ...

Antidepressants are more effective than placebo at treating acute depression in adults, concludes study

February 22, 2018
Meta-analysis of 522 trials includes the largest amount of unpublished data to date, and finds that antidepressants are more effective than placebo for short-term treatment of acute depression in adults.

Infants are able to learn abstract rules visually

February 22, 2018
Three-month-old babies cannot sit up or roll over, yet they are already capable of learning patterns from simply looking at the world around them, according to a recent Northwestern University study published in PLOS One.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.