ATLANTA, Georgia — Attendees of the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) were given a brief glimpse of the research being presented by both new and seasoned investigators during the New Research Press Briefing. Jeffrey A. Borenstein, MD, editor-in-chief of the APA publication, Psychiatric News, and president and CEO of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, served as moderator of the session.
Leading the lineup was a presentation by Stephen Stern, MD, from the department of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center, in San Antonio, titled “A Study of Dog Adoption in Veterans With PTSD.” In this study, a large multidisciplinary team explored the effect of dog adoption from an animal shelter as a supplement to usual care on psychological distress in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Following baseline assessment, participants were randomly assigned to either the immediate adoption of a dog from The Humane Society (treatment group; n=9) or to a wait list for 3 months (control group; n=10), following which time they could adopt a dog. After adoption, the treatment group received close support and veterinary care from both the study team and The Humane Society. Self-rating scales on PTSD symptoms revealed a substantial decline in symptoms and a statistically significant improvement in depressive symptoms in the treatment group. Similar outcomes were seen when assessing loneliness. Participants in the study reported improved relationships with family and others, as well as being more physically and socially active. Dr Stern further explained to Psychiatry Advisor, “My colleagues and I think that the warm and affectionate relationship that most veterans developed with their pet likely played a major role in their improvement. Also, having to walk their dog helped to reduce their social isolation and encouraged them to engage in pleasurable activities.”
Approximately 5% to 6% of the adolescent population is affected by eating disorders, as discussed by Samuel Ridout, MD, PhD, in his presentation, “Sex Differences in Adolescent Patients With Eating Disorders.” Dr Ridout, from Brown University and Butler Hospital, in Providence, Rhode Island, further reported that although eating disorders represent the third most common chronic illness in adolescent females, recent years have seen an increase in males with eating disorders. The goal of this retrospective chart review was to characterize adolescent patients with eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, eating disorder not otherwise specified, or bulimia nervosa), with a secondary outcome of identifying sex differences and psychiatric comorbidities. The results revealed that while there was a greater preponderance of female adolescent patients with eating disorders, male patients had significantly longer premorbid illness and greater prehospitalization weight loss, suggesting that they present for care later than female adolescent patients. There was also found to be a greater prevalence of depression in male patients, which is of particular significance as males complete suicide at higher rates compared with females. These findings warrant vigilance in assessing for eating disorders in young men to encourage early intervention and prevention.