Trauma, violence & abuse

Mental Health Help Seeking Among Traumatized Individuals: A Systematic Review of Studies Assessing the Role of Substance Use and Abuse.

PMID 26232295


Prior research has suggested that competing neurobehavioral decision-making processes might affect health outcomes among traumatized populations. Regulatory imbalances to impulsive and executive decision systems are affected by high levels of stress, including stress resulting from traumatic events. Such regulatory imbalances have been associated with addictive behaviors. However, it is not well known whether addictive behavior increases or decreases the likelihood of utilization of behavioral health services among traumatized populations. The aim of this study is to systematically review mental health utilization studies targeting traumatized populations to determine the direction of association between substance use and behavioral health utilization. Databases of literature were searched in a systematic manner, and 37 relevant studies were recovered and analyzed. Of the 37 relevant studies that included addictive behaviors as a predictor of utilization, 16 showed a positive significant relationship and 6 showed a negative significant relationship. Studies showing a negative significant relationship used younger samples with more recent trauma exposure. Studies have shown that for the most part, substance abuse increases the likelihood of utilization, except among younger populations with more recent trauma. Longitudinal studies that access how utilization evolves over time among traumatized populations and interacts with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse severity are necessary to better understand how decision-making processes of traumatized individuals may increase the likelihood of chronic PTSD.