Stress-related psychiatric disorders across the life span

Prof. dr. A.M. van Hemert, prof. dr. R.C. van der Mast, prof. dr. N.J. van der Wee, prof. dr. R.R. Vermeiren, prof. dr. E.F. van Furth, prof. dr. J.M.A. van Gerven, prof. dr. H.G.J.M. Vermetten, prof. dr. V.M. Hendriks

Aim and focus

The aim of our research is to better understand the onset and continuity of stress-related psychiatric disorders across the life span and to translate our findings into personalised treatment and prevention for our patients and their families.

As a general background for our research we assume that the broad categories of mood- and anxiety-related disorders share a dysregulation of the psychological stress-regulation system. It is a common experience that one person will be better adapted to deal with psychological stress than another. This is partly due to skills that are acquired in a caring and structured upbringing and partly due to biological vulnerability or resilience of the stress-system. Disorders that are commonly considered separately in the DSM- and ICD-classification systems are likely to share similar dysregulations across various disorders.

In our programme we focus on this group of “stress-related disorders”, which include mood (depressive and bipolar), anxiety, and somatoform disorders, trauma and stressor related disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders and severe behaviour disorders in children. We study these disorders across the life span from early adolescence into adulthood and old age. Over the lifespan different disorders from the stress-related spectrum may alternate within the same person, shifting from behaviour disorders in early adolescence towards alternating affective and anxiety disorders in adulthood and sometimes mainly apathy in old age. In addition to frequent co-morbidity, there is considerable overlap in treatment approaches between these disorders and often simultaneous improvement.

In our Centre for Mood and Anxiety disorders, we connect clinical and neurobiological research with top clinical care. We share working alliances in clinical research with the Regional Mental Health providers Rivierduinen, Parnassia and Curium-LUMC. In these clinical settings we develop and apply techniques of Routine Outcome Monitoring to evaluate and improve personalised patient.

In our Centre for Child and Youth Psychiatry, we focus on the early identification of stress related disorders within community mental health centres and (forensic) youth care centres, in order to optimise referral and accurate/personalised intervention. We are partner in the regional Academic Workplace SAMEN (‘Together’) and Risk Youth. Next, the Centre focusses on monitoring outcome and improving personalised patient care in specialist child mental health services.

In our neurobiological research, we aim to elucidate the shared biological underpinnings of vulnerability and resilience for stress and “trauma” related psychiatric disorders, using a translational and multidisciplinary lifespan approach. To translate fundamental findings into personalised approaches, we collaborate locally with various groups in the LUMC profile area ‘Translational Neuroscience’ , Biomedical imaging and in the university profile areas ‘Brain function and dysfunction across the life span’ and ‘Health, prevention and the human life cycle’.

In our Centre for Neuropsychiatry and Ageing, we focus on research and clinic of stress-related psychiatric disorders and the complex relation between ageing, the brain, circulation, neurodegeneration , and psychopathology. Aetiology and manifestations of stress related psychiatric disorders at old age are particularly influenced by age related characteristics such as incident neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases, other somatic morbidity, functional decline and social isolation. The Centre is affiliated to the LUMC Profile Area ‘Ageing’ and the Leyden Academy for Vitality and Ageing (LAVA).