Symptom networks of COVID-19-related versus other potentially traumatic events in a global sample

Journal of Anxiety Disorders

Rachel E. Williamson, Chris M. Hoeboer, Indira Primasari, Yulan Qing, Bruno M. Coimbra, Ani Hovnanyan, Emma Grace & Miranda Olff

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2021.102476

Abstract

The potential mental health consequences of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic are widely acknowledged; however, limited research exists regarding the nature and patterns of stress responses to COVID-19-related potentially traumatic events (PTEs) and the convergence/divergence with responses to other (non-COVID-19-related) PTEs. Network analysis can provide a useful method for evaluating and comparing these symptom structures. The present study includes 7034 participants from 86 countries who reported on mental health symptoms associated with either a COVID-19-related PTE (n = 1838) or other PTE (n = 5196). Using network analysis, we compared the centrality and connections of symptoms within and between each group. Overall, results show that the COVID-19-related network includes transdiagnostic symptom associations similar to networks tied to PTEs unrelated to the pandemic. Findings provide evidence for a shared centrality of depression across networks and theoretically consistent connections between symptoms. Network differences included stronger connections between avoidance-derealization and hypervigilance-depression in the COVID-19 network. Present findings support the conceptualization of psychological responses to pandemic-related PTEs as a network of highly interconnected symptoms and support the use of a transdiagnostic approach to the assessment and treatment of mental health challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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