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Health Problems among People with PTSD and Diabetes

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Updated October 28, 2012

Are PTSD and diabetes connected in some way? PTSD has been found to be associated with a number of different physical health problems such as heart, respiratory, digestive, and reproductory problems and disease. In addition, PTSD has also been found to be related to autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and diabetes.

PTSD and Diabetes

Studies have found that individuals with PTSD are more likely to have diabetes. The unhealthy behaviors often associated with PTSD (for example, smoking, substance use, poor eating habits) may place a person at risk for developing diabetes. In addition, among people with diabetes, the PTSD-related stress and unhealthy behaviors may negatively impact the course of a person's diabetes.

Specific Health Problems among People with PTSD and Diabetes

Researchers at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University and the VA Medical Center in Syracuse, New York, examined the specific health-related problems among people with both PTSD and diabetes. They identified 14,795 military veterans with diabetes and looked at whether or not the veterans had PTSD, depression, or other psychiatric diagnoses.

Participants were divided into four groups: people with depression and PTSD, people with PTSD but not depression, people with depression but not PTSD, people with other psychiatric diagnoses besides PTSD and depression, and people without any psychiatric diagnoses. Across these different groups, they then examined differences on a number of different health-related factors, such as glycemic control, cholesterol levels (total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL), triglycerides, weight, body mass index (BMI).

The researchers found that compared to other groups, people with both PTSD and depression:

  • had worse total cholesterol levels and LDL

  • had higher triglyceride levels

  • weighed more

  • had a higher BMI.

In regard to glycemic control, however, people with only depression had poorer glycemic control than people with PTSD or both PTSD and depression.

Improving Your Physical and Mental Health

PTSD and related conditions like depression can have a major impact on a person's health, and people with a pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, who have PTSD and/or depression may be particularly at risk for health problems. If you have diabetes and PTSD, make sure that you take steps to effectively manage your diabetes, in addition to getting treatment for your PTSD.

Sources:

Goodwin, R.D., & Davidson, J.R. (2005). Self-reported diabetes and posttraumatic stress disordera mong adults in the community. Preventive Medicine, 40, 570-574.

Green, B.L., & Kimerling, R. (2004). Trauma, PTSD, and health status. In P.P. Schurr & B.L. Green (Eds.), Physical health consequences of exposure to extreme stress (pp. 13-42). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Trief, P.M., Ouimette, P., Wade, M., Shanahan, P., & Weinstock, R.S. (2006). Post-traumatic stress disorder and diabetes: Co-morbidity and outcomes in a male veterans sample. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29, 411-418.

Weisberg, R.B., Bruce, S.E., Machan, J.T., Kessler, R.C., Culpepper, L., & Keller, M.B. (2002). Nonpsychiatric illness among primary care patients with trauma histories and posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychiatric Services, 53, 848-854.

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