New York: Teenagers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are likely to misidentify sad and angry faces as fearful while those with conduct disorder interpret sad faces as angry, a new study has found.
“Our findings suggest that exposure to stress and trauma can have acute emotional impacts that simply translate to misidentification of important affective cues,” said Shabnam Javdani, assistant professor at New York University in US.
Trauma increases the risk for the development of both PTSD and conduct disorder – a group of behavioural and emotional problems characterised by callousness or aggression towards others in teens.
These disorders, which often co-occur, have an immense impact on the well being and healthy development of adolescents.
If left untreated, they increase the risk of hurting others or oneself, substance use and mental health problems in adulthood, researchers said.
“Fear is particularly relevant for understanding PTSD, as the disorder has been associated with a ‘survival mode’ of functioning characterised by an overactive fight-or-flight response and increased threat perception,” Javdani said.
In contrast, teens with conduct disorder were more likely to misidentify sad faces, but did not have trouble recognising angry or fearful faces.
Conduct disorder symptoms were associated with mistaking sadness for anger, suggesting that youth with higher levels of conduct disorder interpret sad faces as angry and may be less effective at recognising others’ sadness, pain and suffering.
“Difficulty interpreting displays of sadness and misidentifying sadness as anger may contribute to the impaired affective bonding, low empathy and callous behaviour observed in teens with conduct disorder,” Gavan said.
The study was published in the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Health. PTI
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