More than 90 percent of people experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Over three quarters of men and women diagnosed with lifetime post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develop another co-morbid condition, according to a survey published in Archives of General Psychiatry in 1995.
PTSD is a metal health disorder triggered by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Such an event could be a natural disaster, sexual or physical abuse, child abuse, combat exposure, assault, a serious accident or a terrorist attack. Anybody who goes through a traumatic event is left shaken and experiences difficulty coping for some time. However, a persisting fear, anxiety and stress despite not being in danger anymore may indicate the onset of PTSD.
The symptoms of PTSD are essentially characterized into four:
- Re-experiencing the event through flashbacks, nightmares and disheveling thoughts
- Avoidance symptoms that refer to avoiding any thing or situation that reminds the person of the traumatic experience
- Negative alterations in beliefs and feelings related to self
- Hyperarousal relative to easily startled reactions and constant edginess
PTSD brings with it an assortment of associated morbidities, both mental and physical in nature. Since this disorder is highly sensitive to environmental reminders of the traumatic event, it follows an unpredictable and fluctuating course. Chronic PTSD often co-occurs with depression, stress disorders and anxiety disorders. Such co-occurring morbidities highly influence the course of the disorder and its treatment, making it all the more challenging.
PTSD and depression
Various researchers have depicted a rise in the rates of depression after a traumatic event. This holds particular repercussions for children and adults who are already struggling with PTSD. According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2004, the likeliness of depression is almost three to five times higher in those with PTSD compared to those who do not have PTSD. Whether PTSD and depression are separate disorders in the aftermath of trauma or belong to a single general traumatic stress construct, emerged as a valid question.
A group of 363, three to 12 month post-injury survivors were observed prior to their release from the hospital. To explore further the relationship between PTSD and depression, canonical correlations and multinomial logistics regressions were used. The study concluded depression and PTSD to be indistinguishable traumatic stress factors with a shared vulnerability and similar predictors. However, depression was noted to occur independently from PTSD among a small group of survivors, at three-month post injury. Therefore, it appeared evident that existence of depression was independent in acute PTSD, but not in the case of chronic PTSD.
PTSD and panic disorder
One anxiety disorder that is commonly seen co-occurring in individuals with PTSD is panic disorder. Research reveals that nearly 5 percent of people develop panic disorders at some point in their lives. This rate is spiked among individuals battling PTSD.
Panic disorders refer to the spontaneous onset of an anxiety attack despite the fact that there might be no real reason for the feeling.
A study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders in 2002 explored the relationship between panic disorders and PTSD. A population of panic disorder patients was studied for the existing trauma rates among them. It is commonly understood that panic disorder patients experience high levels of trauma. It was discovered that 24.2 percent of females and 5 percent of males were reported to have a previous history of sexual abuse. These results revealed that trauma can be a significant cause of panic disorder alongside co-occurring PTSD.
PTSD and social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder (SAD), otherwise known as social phobia, is an anxiety disorder that stems from the fear of judgment from others causing a frequent or undying fear of social situations leading to isolation and social awkwardness.
According to a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders in 2003, individuals who had PTSD at some point in their lives were three times more likely to also have a diagnosis of SAD compared to someone without PTSD.
Another study from the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 1996, focused on a group of 41 Vietnam veterans who were interviewed and assessed in detail to discover links between social phobia and PTSD. Thirty-two percent were noted to be positive for social phobia and PTSD. It was further noted that veterans with PTSD were more susceptible to developing a social phobia than those who were not suffering from PTSD.
Many people with PTSD experience high levels of shame, guilt and self-blame, and these feelings may lead to SAD.
PTSD has affected 7.7 million Americans aged 18 and older. Given the fact that numerous mental disorder can stem from PTSD, it is important to realize that treatment is more complex with the presence of co-occurring morbidities. This is why the Dual Diagnosis Helpline is available to help you or your loved one connect with a treatment provider who can help with your specific situation. If you are currently seeking recovery, please call us right away.