Research that shows people with PsA are more likely to have had negative life experiences

I was browsing the NHS research database (as you do!) and came across this study, which I thought some of you might find interesting. It follows on from Seenie's question last week, when she asked us what we thought got in the way of our diagnoses, and some of us (me included) mentioned difficult life experiences and stress...

Title: Negative and positive life experiences in patients with psoriatic arthritis.

Citation: Rheumatology international, vol. 33, no. 6, p. 1587-1593, 1437-160X (June 2013)

Author(s): Simonić, Edita,Peternel, Sandra,Stojnić-Soša, Liliana,Rončević-Gržeta, Ika,Prpić-Massari, Larisa,Massari, Dražen,Periša, Darinka,Cabrijan, Leo,Kaštelan, Marija


Recent data suggest that childhood and adulthood stressors may play a significant role in the development of an autoimmune disease. The present study explores the relationship between psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and positive and negative life events during childhood and adulthood in psoriatic patients. Forty-five patients with psoriatic arthritis and 101 controls (patients with skin conditions considered to be "non-psychosomatic") were enrolled in the study. All participants completed a specific questionnaire measuring traumatic life experiences [Traumatic Antecedents Questionnaire (TAQ)]. The TAQ assesses positive personal experiences (competence and safety) and negative personal experiences (neglect, separation, secrets, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, trauma witnessing, other traumas and exposure to alcohol/drugs) from early childhood to adulthood. The patients with psoriatic arthritis exhibited lower mean scores of total positive experiences during late childhood (latency) as compared to the control group. Negative experiences during four developmental periods appeared more frequently in patients with psoriatic arthritis than in the controls. The most frequently reported negative experiences were neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, alcohol/drug abuse and other traumas. The present findings add evidence to the relationship between retrospectively reported childhood experiences and psoriatic arthritis. Furthermore, a high amount of reported emotional and physical abuse occurs in patients with psoriatic arthritis during latency and adolescence.

Ugh. I think that this has been posted before. It's theoretically interesting, but I'm not sure that it's useful. It can't be used to predict who may develop PsA, and clearly negative experiences during the formative years are something that I think we can all agree should be avoided.

I would be more curious to know what the purpose of the study was, rather than trying to figure out whether early childhood trauma may have had an impact. Personally, I feel that it's not useful to look backwards like this.

I take your point, Stoney. For me, it’s important because it is a study showing that emotional trauma may affect physical health. My own experience, and the experience of a lot of other people, is that doctors recognised my stress and then assumed my symptoms were due to that, rather than to anything else. I have had symptoms that are characteristic of PsA for many years, but they were dismissed because they were attributed to stress, rather than investigated. I was treated as if it was “all in my head”. Research like this that shows that stress and trauma may be risk factors for PsA imply that doctors should pay MORE attention to other symptoms when they identify stress and trauma, rather than less. That would totally transform the way many patients are currently treated.

I think that if this research has any direct use it may be around dealing with the lingering effects of childhood trauma as an adult just in case that can go any way to ameliorating disease symptoms.

As many report, having PsA has made me re-evaluate quite a few things in my life and attitude. As far as stress is concerned, that has mostly concerned how I deal with stress in the here and now. But I may have changed my approach to past events as far as I'm able to and if so it's subtle .... but I do think that has happened. With any disease you start to realise more than ever that life is precious, that every day matters. My rheumy did ask if I wanted to be referred for counselling quite early on. That's not for me though, not now anyway. But I've kind of upped my game in terms of doing what I know does work for me. And that means acknowledging a very difficult childhood rather than re-writing history and, at the same time, really acknowledging how strong I am and how much happiness I've had, and have.

I suppose those of us who have come through hard times in the past must be quite strong people and we have to be strong to deal with this PsA lark. So really, it is in a sense a win win situation. PsA? Pffff!