Health Events That Trigger PTSD
Stroke, cancer, and Crohn’s disease can lead to severe emotional distress.
By Nancie George
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It’s natural to experience emotional distress after a traumatic event. But it can be difficult to distinguish between normal feelings of worry and a mental health condition like an anxiety disorder.
Many studies have shown that people may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — commonly associated with terrifying or life-threatening events — following serious health diagnoses or events.
PTSD symptoms might include recurrent or intrusive memories of the traumatic event, disturbing dreams about the event, trouble sleeping and concentrating, lack of interest in your favorite activities, and feelings of hopelessness. Talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy such as exposure therapy, and some medications can help relieve symptoms.
The following are some health crises associated with PTSD:
A visit to the ICU.One in three people treated in an intensive care unit (ICU) experienced PTSD symptoms lasting up to two years, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Medicine. Patients with depression before the ICU stay were twice as likely to experience PTSD symptoms.
“We usually think of PTSD as something you develop if you go to war, are sexually assaulted, or suffer a similar emotional trauma,” says senior study author a critical care specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a press release. “Instead, it may be as common, or more common, in ICU patients as in soldiers, but it's something many doctors — including psychiatrists — don't fully appreciate.”
Stroke.About one-third of people who experienced transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), known as mini-strokes, had PTSD symptoms, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Stroke. TIAs are a mild form of stoke that occurs when blood supply is temporarily restricted to the brain. These episodes usually last less than five minutes and don’t cause permanent brain damage, but they may be a warning sign for a future, more serious stroke.
Fourteen percent of people involved in the study had lowered mental and physical quality of life, and individuals with PTSD experienced more depression and anxiety.
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Signs of stroke include difficulty speaking, a severe headache that occurs out of nowhere, feeling weak or numb on one side of your body, seeing double, and coordination trouble. The American Stroke Association provides information about stroke signs and symptoms on its website.
Cancer.A 2011 study published in Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at PTSD among non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer survivors. Researchers surveyed 566 survivors and found that more than a third had PTSD symptoms that persisted or worsened several years after their initial cancer diagnosis.
Crohn’s disease.Crohn’s disease may cause PTSD, which can worsen the digestive disorder’s symptoms, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Frontline Gastroenterology. Researchers monitored the health and psychological well-being of nearly 600 adults with the disease, which is a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder that causes abdominal pain and diarrhea.
At the start of the study, 19 percent of Crohn’s patients were found to have PTSD. Results showed that Crohn’s patients with PTSD were more than 13 times likelier to have worsening symptoms than those without PTSD.
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