A Guide To The Comorbidities Of PTSD

PTSD develops in some people after a traumatic event or prolonged trauma. Experiencing a traumatic event does not mean you are guaranteed to develop this condition, but it cannot develop without one.

PTSD is commonly undiagnosed but can seriously affect your day-to-day functioning. Around 80% of people with PTSD have a comorbidity. A comorbidity is a disorder that occurs in tandem with another disease.

This article will discuss some of the most common co-occurring health issues. 

Curious about clinical trials for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Researchers are studying thousands of new treatments and you could be a part of finding a cure while accessing the newest treatments for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

The core symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Recurring intrusive flashbacks

  • Nightmares of the traumatic event

  • Avoidance of thoughts or triggers of these memories

  • Memory loss of some specific parts of the traumatic event

  • A negative perception of yourself or the world overall

  • Feelings of isolation or detachment

  • Irritability, recklessness, and difficulty focusing

  • Hypervigilance

  • Insomnia

Comorbidities can intensify these symptoms or add more to your life, making the condition even harder to deal with. 

PTSD comorbidities

Depression

PTSD increases the likelihood of depression in men and women.

Depression can range in severity and negatively affect many aspects of your life. It’s more complicated than simply feeling a bit sad or down. 

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling anxious or unhappy most of the time

  • Losing enthusiasm for things you used to enjoy

  • Irritability or restlessness

  • Trouble sleeping or feeling tired even after a good sleep

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Headaches, pains, or stomach issues that do not improve

  • Problems with memory and concentrating

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Thoughts of self-harm

Contacting your health professional is the best step toward diagnosis and treatment if you suspect depression.

Anxiety

It is very common to experience anxiety from time to time. However, those who have anxiety disorders deal with an excessive amount of worry. This can be difficult to get rid of and interfere with daily life. It can co-occur with PTSD.

Some anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Panic disorder

  • Social anxiety disorder

  • Phobias

  • Separation anxiety disorder

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports¹ that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder worldwide. For people with PTSD, this can be more severe and extended. With the right help, you can recover from the debilitating effects of this disorder and return to normal life. 

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

A borderline personality disorder is complicated. Studies² show that 30-70% of adults with BPD also have PTSD at some point. Key markers of BPD are instability in the following:

  • Mood

  • Behavior

  • Self-perception

This disorder means you may lose the capability to regulate your emotions, leading to mood swings, anxiety, negative self-image, and impulsivity. People with BPD often struggle to maintain peaceful personal relationships and have a significantly higher rate of self-harm and suicide.

These symptoms are not universal and can vary. Seek advice from a medical professional if you suspect you have BPD. Treatments such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) make the condition much more manageable. 

Physical health problems

PTSD can also affect your physical health. Studies³ have linked PTSD to multiple physical health disorders, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease (heart problems)

  • Autoimmune disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Increased inflammation

  • Obesity

  • Chronic pain

PTSD can also speed up the onset of diseases usually associated with age, including neurocognitive diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

Substance use disorders

Substance use disorders involve the abuse of drugs, including alcohol. They are fairly common and often severe. Research¹ shows that almost half of those with PTSD have a substance use disorder.

Recovering from a substance use disorder, despite relapse being a common setback. A doctor may diagnose a disorder if your use of drugs is recurrent and impairs your day-to-day life. 

Where can I find help?

Each of these conditions requires different treatment. Even if you are already receiving treatment for your PTSD, speaking to your therapist or medical professional about improving these symptoms is the first step. 

They can also help you with treatment or advice for substance abuse disorders if you or a loved one are struggling with detrimental alcohol or drug use.

The lowdown

As well as the already debilitating symptoms of PTSD, having this condition means you are more likely to have another disorder. Different conditions and diagnoses often require different treatment plans for successful recovery. 

If you suspect you may have any of the conditions described above, contact a medical professional to take steps toward diagnosis and treatment. You’re not alone, and help is available.

FAQs

What is the difference between symptoms and comorbidities?

Symptoms of PTSD are core to its diagnosis. They are direct results of your brain's response to trauma and cannot be attributed to another disease. Comorbidity will also cause symptoms specific to that illness.  

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an anxiety disorder with an intense fear of a certain thing. Specific or simple phobias focus on a particular object, situation, or activity.

Simple phobia examples:

  • Heights

  • Spiders

  • Flying

  • Blood

Another phobia example is agoraphobia, a fear of being in a situation where escape is difficult or help is unavailable. 

A medical professional diagnoses this condition if you have a fear of two or more of the following:

  • Being on public transport

  • Open spaces

  • Enclosed spaces

  • Standing in lines or crowds

  • Going outside your house alone

Phobias can range in severity, preventing some people from carrying out daily activities.

Curious about clinical trials for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Researchers are studying thousands of new treatments and you could be a part of finding a cure while accessing the newest treatments for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Discover which clinical trials you are eligible for

Are you curious about clinical trials?
Have you taken medication for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
Have you been diagnosed with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

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