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The Effect of PTSD on a Person's Life

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Updated June 26, 2011

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The effect of PTSD can be far-reaching. PTSD can be a debilitating disorder, and its symptoms can have a negative impact on a number of different areas in a person's life. In particular, PTSD can negatively effect a person's mental health, physical health, work, and relationships. Some of the difficulties that people with PTSD experience in these areas are discussed in more detail below.

Mental Health Problems

Study after study has found that people with PTSD are at much greater risk for developing a number of other mental health disorders, including other anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. For example, it has been found that people with PTSD are about 6 times as likely as someone without PTSD to develop depression and about 5 times as likely to develop another anxiety disorder.

In addition to these mental health problems, people with PTSD are also 6 times as likely as someone without PTSD to attempt suicide. High rates of deliberate self-harm have also been found among people with PTSD.

Physical Health Problems

In addition to mental health problems, people with PTSD also seem to be at greater risk for a number of physical health problems, including pain, diabetes, obesity, heart problems, respiratory problems, and sexual dysfunction.

It is not entirely clear as to why people with PTSD have more physical health problems. However, it may be due to the fact that the symptoms of PTSD result in the release of stress hormones which may contribute to inflammation and eventual damage to a person's body. This would increase a person's risk for certain physical health problems, including heart disease. People with PTSD also appear to be at high risk for unhealthy behaviors (for example, smoking) which may further increase the possibility of physical health problems.

Problems at Work and in Relationships

Finally, PTSD can greatly interfere with a person's ability to work and maintain relationships. People with PTSD miss more days at work and work less efficiently than people without PTSD. Certain symptoms of PTSD, such as difficulties concentrating and problems sleeping, may make it difficult for a person with PTSD to pay attention at work, stay organized, or make it to work on time. Not surprisingly then, people with PTSD also have higher rates of unemployment than people without PTSD. Likewise, people with PTSD often have problems at school. It has been found that people with PTSD may be more likely to not make it through high school or college.

In addition, people with PTSD are more likely to have problems in their marriage than people without PTSD. Partners of people with PTSD may be faced with a number of stressors that go along with caring for and living with someone with a chronic disease. These stressors include financial strain, managing the person's symptoms, dealing with crises, loss of friends, or loss of intimacy. These stressors can have a major negative impact on a relationship.

The Importance of Getting Help for Your PTSD

If you have a diagnosis of PTSD, it is very important to seek out some kind of help. Not only are the symptoms of PTSD difficult to cope with, but they can also have a major negative impact on different areas of your life. Unfortunately, only slightly more than a third of people with PTSD are in some kind of treatment. There are a number of effective treatments for PTSD, and treating PTSD can cause improvements in other areas of your life. For example, if someone successfully treats their PTSD, they often find that other disorders go away as well (although their other conditions may require specific, targeted treatments). Finding a mental health provider can be an overwhelming and stressful task if you do not know where to look. Fortunately, there are several websites that provide free search engines that can help you find mental health providers in your area that treat PTSD.

Sources:

Asmundson, G.J.G., Coons, M.J., Taylor, S., & Katz, J. (2002). PTSD and the experience of pain: Research and clinical implications of shared vulnerability and mutual maintenance models. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 47, 930-937.

Brewerton, T.D. (2007). Eating disorders, trauma, and comorbidity: Focus on PTSD. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 15, 285-304.

Boscarino, J.A. (2008). A prospective study of PTSD and early-age heart disease mortality among Vietnam Veterans: Implications for surveillance and prevention. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 668-676.

Calhoun, P.S.,Beckham, J.C., & Bosworth, H.B. (2002). Caregiver burden and psychological distress in partners of veterans with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15, 205-212.

Feldner, M.T., Babson, K.A., & Zvolensky, M.J. (2007). Smoking, traumatic event exposure, and post-traumatic stress: A critical review of the empirical literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 14-45.

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.

Harned, M.S., Najavits, L.M., & Weiss, R.D. (2006). Self-harm and suicidal behavior in women with comorbid PTSD and substance dependence. The American Journal on Addictions, 15, 392-295.

Kessler, R.C. (2000). Posttraumatic stress disorder: The burden to the individual and society. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 61 (suppl 5), 4-12.

Scott, K.M., McGee, M.A., Wells, J.E., Oakley Browne, M.A. (2008). Obesity and mental disorders in the adult general population. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64, 97-105.

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.

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