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Original Research

Transdiagnostic Psychiatric Symptoms, Burnout, and Functioning in Frontline Health Care Workers Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Symptomics Analysis

Lorig K. Kachadourian, PhDa,b,*; Adriana Feder, MDc; James W. Murrough, MD, PhDd,e; Jordyn H. Feingold, MAPPf; Halley Kaye-Kauderer, BAf; Dennis Charney, MDc,d,g; Steven M. Southwick, MDa,c; Lauren Peccoralo, MDf,h,I; Jonathan Ripp, MD, MPHh,I; and Robert H. Pietrzak, PhD, MPHa,b,c,j

Published: April 27, 2021


Objective: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to an increased risk of psychiatric symptoms among frontline health care workers (FHCWs). In the current study, a novel “symptomics” approach was employed to examine the association between acute transdiagnostic symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder (MDD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and burnout and work and relationship difficulties in FHCWs at an urban tertiary care hospital in New York City.

Methods: Symptoms of COVID-19–related PTSD (4-item PTSD Checklist-5), MDD (Patient Health Questionnaire-8), GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7), burnout (Single-Item Mini-Z Burnout Assessment), and functional difficulties (Brief Inventory of Psychosocial Functioning) were assessed. Relative importance analyses were conducted to identify PTSD, MDD, and GAD symptoms associated with burnout and functional difficulties.

Results: The total number of eligible participants included 6,026 presumed FHCWs, of which 3,360 (55.8%) completed the survey and 2,579 (76.8%) of whom endorsed directly treating patients with COVID-19 and provided sufficient responses to our outcome variables for analysis. Feeling tired/having little energy, being easily annoyed or irritable, and feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge were most strongly associated with burnout; feeling tired/having little energy accounted for the greatest amount of explained variance (> 15%). Negative expectations of oneself or the world, trouble concentrating, and feeling easily annoyed or irritable were most strongly associated with work difficulties; negative expectations of oneself or the world accounted for the greatest amount of explained variance (> 9%). Feeling easily annoyed or irritable, negative expectations about oneself or the world, and feeling bad about oneself were most strongly associated with relationship difficulties; feeling easily annoyed or irritable accounted for the greatest amount of explained variance (> 10%).

Conclusions: Results of this study underscore the importance of a transdiagnostic, symptom-based approach when examining associations between acute psychopathology and burnout and functional difficulties in FHCWs. Further work is needed to determine if early interventions aimed at ameliorating specific psychiatric symptoms may help mitigate risk for peri- and posttraumatic burnout and functional difficulties in this population.

Volume: 82

Quick Links: COVID-19 , PTSD , Trauma

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