Enquiring about traumatic experiences in bipolar disorder: A case note and self- report comparison

Ciaran Shannon, Chrissie Maguire, Julie Anderson, Ciaran Meenagh, Ciaran Mulholland

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Objectives: This study examined: (i) the prevalence of lifetime trauma, childhood trauma and trauma related to civil unrest in a Bipolar Disorder sample, and (ii) the agreement between rates of disclosure of trauma in case notes and self-report questionnaires.

Methods: The case notes of sixty participants, recruited from a geographically well-defined mental health service in Northern Ireland, were examined for reports of experiences of lifetime, childhood and traumatic events related to civil conflict. The participants also completed self-report measures of trauma.

Results: Considerable differences were found between the prevalence of trauma as measured by self-report questionnaires and case notes reports. The prevalence of lifetime trauma as measured by the Trauma History Questionnaire was 61.7% (compared to case notes prevalence of 33.3%). The prevalence of moderate and severe levels of childhood trauma as measured by the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire was 65% (case notes 21.7%). Rates of trauma related to civil unrest were 35% (case notes 3.3%). Poor levels of agreement were found between all self-report trauma measures and case notes reports. Agreement on two categories of trauma (childhood emotional neglect and childhood physical neglect) reached statistical significance but kappa scores suggest this agreement was poor (kappa = .14. p<.05; kappa = .127, p<.05). © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Conclusions: It is probable that the increased rate of trauma disclosed in the self-report questionnaire arises because clinicians during initial assessment and subsequent treatment do not consistently enquire about trauma. The need for staff training is discussed. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-355
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Trauma
  • Childhood trauma

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