Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Post-Earthquake Psychological Functioning in Adults with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder: Positive Effects of Micronutrients on Resilience

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Post-Earthquake Psychological Functioning in Adults with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder: Positive Effects of Micronutrients on Resilience

Article excerpt

On 4th September, 2010, at 4.35am local time, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Canterbury region of New Zealand (Quigley et al., 2010), with its epicentre about 40 kms from the South Island's major city, Christchurch (population ~380,000). Despite the large magnitude of the earthquake, there were no deaths and only two serious injuries. This is remarkable (Royal Society of New Zealand, 2010), especially compared with other recent urban earthquakes of similar or lesser magnitude, where considerable loss of life was experienced (e.g., L'Aquila, Italy, April, 2009: Magnitude 5.8, 308 deaths and 1500 serious injuries; Haiti, January 2010: Magnitude 7, 222,570 deaths and 300,000 injuries; www.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqs ww/Quakes/, but cf Bodvarsdottir & Elklit, 2004).

Christchurch and its region did, however, suffer extensive damage to land, watercourses, buildings, roads, and other infrastructure, with damage estimated to exceed NZ$4 billion (Quigley et al., 2010). Following the initial earthquake were numerous aftershocks: 935 in total in the first two weeks, with 10 of magnitude 5 or greater, and 105 greater than magnitude 4 (see www.geonet.co.nz).

Earthquakes and their aftershocks are unpredictable, uncontrollable, aversive events, and events of this nature are known to induce a variety of debilitating psychological consequences (Soames-Job, 2002).

Consistent with this, research has shown increased levels of psychological distress in survivors of major earthquakes, but the focus of much of this research has been on the severe end of the distress spectrum, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; for reviews see Bonanno, Brewin, Kaniasty, & La Greca, 2010; Neria, Nandi, & Galea, 2007). The Christchurch earthquake provided a rare opportunity to study the psychological effects of an earthquake but without the effects of death and injury affecting the responses of survivors. Recent research (see Bonanno et al., 2010) has suggested that distinctive individual trajectories of response are evident after a disaster such as an earthquake.

A minority of survivors (rarely more than ~30% of the affected population) show immediate or delayed severe symptoms of distress, including full PTSD, and a second minority group (typically ~ 20 to 25%) experience moderate to severe symptoms initially, but recover relatively rapidly thereafter. The majority of survivors (typically 50% or more) display psychological resilience, defined by Bonanno et al., as evidencing a stable pattern of few or mild symptoms of distress throughout the post-disaster period, operationalised as reporting no more than one symptom of PTSD in the six months after a disaster (Bonanno, Galea, Bucciarelli, & Vlahov, 2006).

Interestingly, anecdotal reports from mental health professionals and services suggest that those with preexisting mental health conditions were particularly vulnerable to post-quake exacerbation of their distress (e.g., Rehab use up tenfold after quake, The Press, 25th January, 2011).

Logistically, this is a difficult issue to research but the Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Diagnostic Assessment and Research Unit at the University of Canterbury was able to study this for one particular diagnostic group, namely adults with ADHD. Prior research has suggested that individuals diagnosed with ADHD are generally vulnerable to experiencing high levels of stress (Lackschewitz, Huther, & Kroner-Herwig, 2008), suggesting that they are likely to be among those most vulnerable to enhanced distress in the wake of disasters, although we are unaware of any research confirming this.

There is, however, a growing body of research showing that nutritional supplements such as EMPowerplus (EMP+) have benefits, specifically for those with ADHD (Rucklidge, Johnstone, & Kaplan, 2009) and more generally (Carroll, Ring, Suter, & Willemsen, 2000; Schlebusch et al. …

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