VIDEO ALERT: Additional audio and video resources, including excerpts from an interview with Dr. Ali Zirakzadeh describing the research, are available online.
In the July issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers report that a history of sexual abuse is associated with suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, and eating and sleep disorders. Additionally, associations between sexual abuse and depression, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder were strengthened by a history of rape.
“Survivors of sexual abuse are commonly seen in general medical practice,” says Ali Zirakzadeh, M.D., Mayo Clinic Division of General Internal Medicine and principal investigator of the study. “Sexual abuse survivors face a challenging spectrum of physical and mental health symptoms, which results in high health care utilization, oftentimes without improvement in quality of life.”
The study reports prevalence rates of sexual abuse in some populations are as high as 21 percent in adults and 33 percent in children. Furthermore, sexual abuse survivors can represent up to 25 percent of patient panels in primary care practices.
Researchers also explored why some abuse survivors do not experience psychiatric symptoms and suggest that genetic variability may confer a level of protection. “The protective effect of certain genes against the development of psychiatric disorders in abuse survivors is an intriguing prospect.
If confirmed, future testing may more effectively identify victims of abuse who are at increased risk to develop psychiatric disease and lead to the development of better interventions and treatment” says Dr. Zirakzadeh.
Dr. Zirakzadeh adds, “The good news for patients is that physicians are now more aware of the link between abuse and psychiatric illness so that abuse survivors may be more readily identified and referred to specialists for treatment. We hope that heightened awareness in clinical practice leads to improved outcomes for our patients.”
A peer-reviewed journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings publishes original articles and reviews dealing with clinical and laboratory medicine, clinical research, basic science research and clinical epidemiology. Mayo Clinic Proceedings is published monthly by Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research as part of its commitment to the medical education of physicians. The journal has been published for more than 80 years and has a circulation of 130,000 nationally and internationally. Articles are available online.
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Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of “the needs of the patient come first.” More than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers, and 50,100 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Rochester, Minn; Jacksonville, Fla; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz.; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education, visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.