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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


HEINZE, Gerhard; VARGAS, Blanca Estela  y  CORTES SOTRES, José F.. Psychiatric symptoms and personality traits in two opposite groups from the School of Medicine of the UNAM. Salud Ment [online]. 2008, vol.31, n.5, pp.343-350. ISSN 0185-3325.

Introduction Recent studies have shown an increase in psychiatric symptomatology in medical students and physicians during their professional practice. Some studies show that these professionals have a higher prevalence of psychiatric symptoms than the general population. This phenomenon is a consequence of the particular conditions of this professional activity, and, in the case of students, of high academic demands that lead to stressful situations that interfere with their academic performance and the development of clinical skills, which may have repercussions on their relationship with their patients. The predominant symptoms are anxiety, depression and stress, as well as substance use; there has also been an increase in the number of students with suicide attempts. Most of these problems occur during the first two years of the degree course as well as the internship year. Depression is masked by anger, by virtue of the fact that it is an internalized form of anger. It has also been documented that there is a significant link between certain personality traits and the presence or absence of mental symptoms, regardless of the situations to which people are exposed. The feature with the highest association with the presence of symptomatology is neuroticism, while the personality traits that are most conducive to the achievement of academic success and better adaptation and, therefore, a lower number of symptoms are empathy and kindness. The purpose of this study was to establish a diagnosis of the mental health and personality traits of medical students in the high performance groups and compare them with those of the groups of students that performed poorly during the first two years of the degree course. This transversal, exploratory study involved the participation of 370 students from the UNAM Medical School: 220 belonged to the high performance groups, called educational quality nuclei (NUCE), while 1 50 were repeat students. The variables considered were: age, sex, type of group (NUCE or repeat), academic year (first or second year of the degree), place of origin and type of high school from which they had graduated (public or private). Two instruments were used to measure personality traits and psychiatric symptomatology: the Big Five Personality Traits and the Symptom Check List-90. The results of the study show that in both groups (repeat students and NUCE) over 85% were from the Federal District. Repeat students were mainly women (85.3%) and students from public schools (93.6%). As for the high performance group (NUCE), 83.1 % were from private schools and just 1 6.9% from public schools. Repeat students showed personality traits that included neuroticism and very little openness compared with the high performance groups, which displayed traits of greater openness and less neuroticism, with p<0.01. In general, students from NUCE groups showed traits of greater extraversion, empathy and diligence compared with repeaters. Psychiatric symptomatology was more severe among the repeat group than the NUCE group (p<0.05). The psychiatric symptomatology displayed by both groups included: obsession-compulsion, depression and anxiety. In the comparisons, the two groups showed significant differences in total symptomatology. There were also differences in the following symptomatology, by order of importance: phobia, interpersonal sensitivity, somatization, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and psychoticism (p<0.05). Differences were found between academic years, with second-year students showing greater symptomatology; women displayed the greatest symptomatology. No differences were found for the interaction between sex and academic year. The analysis of structural models was used to determine the relationship between the variables being studied, with significant correlation coefficients with p<.05 being found between personality and sex, personality and type of high school, as well as type of group and suicidal ideation, academic year and psychiatric symptomatology, personality and suicidal ideation and personality and psychiatric symptomatology. The results of the study coincided with those in the literature, although there were some differences between the two groups of students. Repeat students displayed greater levels of psychiatric symptomatology compared with students in the high performance groups. This suggests that students who perform less well in their degree courses also report higher mean responses in psychiatric symptomatology, mainly on scales of somatization, anxiety, phobia and interpersonal sensitivity. As for type of personality, students in the high performance group reported higher average scores on the scales of extraversion, empathy and openness, with the exception of the neuroticism scale. This suggests that personality features may be predictors of better academic performance as well as greater intellectual skill. This finding is reinforced by the repeater group's results, since they report higher scores in the personality trait of neuroticism. The diligence scale was the same for both groups. The study corroborated the fact that second-year students display the greatest symptomatology, with women reporting higher averages in psychiatric symptomatology scores (mean = 7.3). Sex is associated with greater empathy and solidarity, with women achieving higher scores in both personality traits. Although the neuroticism trait is also associated with the female sex and suicidal ideation, scores for this trait were higher for men. This trait can be considered a predictor for both suicidal ideation and the presence of a higher number of psychiatric symptoms. Lastly, the symptomatology in which these students obtained the highest scores is related to the obsessive-compulsive disorder, a situation which we consider may be due to the type of screening test used. It is a fact that studying medicine involves continuously stressful conditions. For these students, however, seeking help to cope with the presence of psychiatric symptomatology is extremely complicated since they regard it as a form of weakness. This raises the need to develop large-scale programs to orient students in order to enable them to identify symptoms at an early stage, which in turn will permit timely treatment.

Palabras llave : Psychiatric symptomatology; traits of personality; medicine students; ideations suicides.

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