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Keywords:

  • anxiety/anxiety disorders;
  • depression;
  • GAD/generalized anxiety disorder;
  • panic attacks/agoraphobia;
  • PTSD/posttraumatic stress disorder;
  • stress;
  • trauma

Background

Predisaster risk factors are related to postdisaster psychopathology even at relatively low levels of disaster exposure. A history of panic attacks (PA) may convey risk for postdisaster psychopathology and has been linked to a wide range of psychiatric disorders in Western and non-Western samples. The present study examined the main and interactive effects of pretyphoon PA and level of typhoon exposure in the onset of posttyphoon posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression (MDD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in a Vietnamese sample of typhoon survivors.

Methods

Typhoon Xangsane interrupted a Vietnamese epidemiological mental health needs assessment, providing a rare opportunity for preand posttyphoon assessments. Hierarchical logistic regression analyses evaluated whether the main and interactive effects of typhoon exposure severity and PA history were significantly related to posttyphoon diagnoses, above and beyond age, health status, pretyphoon psychiatric screening results, and history of potentially traumatic events.

Results

PA history moderated the relationship between severity of typhoon exposure and posttyphoon PTSD and MDD, but not GAD. Specifically, greater degree of exposure to the typhoon was significantly related to increased likelihood of postdisaster PTSD and MDD among individuals without a history of PA, above and beyond variance accounted for by pretyphoon psychiatric screening results. Individuals with a history of PA evidenced greater risk for postdisaster PTSD and MDD regardless of severity of typhoon exposure.

Conclusions

Preexisting PA may affect the nature of the relationship between disaster characteristics and prevalence of postdisaster PTSD and MDD within Vietnamese samples.