Adverse psychological events occurring in the first year after predictive testing for Huntington's disease. The Canadian Collaborative Study Predictive Testing.
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A total of 135 participants in the Canadian predictive testing programme for HD were followed for at least one year in one of four study groups: increased risk (n = 37), decreased risk ( n = 58), uninformative (n = 17), or not tested (n = 23). Clinical criteria for an adverse event were a suicide attempt or formulation of a suicide attempt plan, psychiatric hospitalisation, depression lasting longer than two months, a marked increase in substance abuse, and the breakdown of important relationships. Quantitative criteria, as measured by changes on the General Severity Index of the Symptom Checklist 90-R and the Beck Depression Inventory, were also used to identify people who had adverse events. Twenty of the 135 participants (14.8%) had an adverse event. There were no significant differences between those with or without an adverse event with respect to age, sex, marital status, education, psychiatric history, general psychiatric distress, or social supports at baseline. However, evidence for depression was associated with an increased frequency of adverse events (p < 0.04). The adverse events were similar and seen with equivalent frequency in those receiving an increased risk or decreased risk and persons at risk who did not receive a modification of risk. However, a significant difference was found in the timing of adverse events for the increased and decreased risk groups (p < 0.0002). In the increased risk group all of the adverse events occurred within 10 days after results whereas, in the decreased risk group, all of the adverse events occurred six months or later after reviewing test results. These results suggest that people entering into predictive testing with some evidence of clinical depression warrant special vigilance and also suggest that counselling and support should be available for all participants in predictive testing irrespective of the direction of test results.