Over 20% of People with Crohn's May Suffer from PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually associated with war zones, and combat veterans, childhood sexual trauma, and abuse survivors. But the general public’s concept of trauma is changing with new research that is showing that patients with chronic illnesses often suffer from PTSD as well.
A four-year study was recently published in Cancer, using gold star clinical interviews in Malaysia of almost five hundred patients with different types of cancer. The study only monitored those patients who had significant psychological distress such as depression and hospital anxiety. The study has revealed that there was about a twenty one percent, or one in five, patient incidence of PTSD at the six-month follow-up assessment. The good news--rates dropped to six percent at the four-year follow-up. Clearly the overall rates of PTSD decreased with time, but one-third of patients had consistent or worsening PTSD four years after the fact. There is a need for early identification of this subset of cancer patients with PTSD so that treatment can begin immediately, and hopefully lessen the effects and severity of the disorder.
It’s not just cancer patients who are affected by PTSD
A 2011 report published in Frontline Gastroenterology found that twenty percent of more than 500 Crohn’s patients included in the study had PTSD related to their illness. Those patients were also at higher risk of flare-ups. And PTSD itself may have some health effects or even be linked to chronic disease, according to the authors of this 2015 paper in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
While Crohn's disease seems to be the highest rate of chronic illness patients who develop PTSD, breast cancer patients are among the least likely cancer patients to develop PTSD. To date, only three studies have evaluated the prevalence and the characteristics of PTSD secondary to multiple sclerosis. The first study evaluated a small sample of MS patients and found a relatively high prevalence of PTSD similar to that found in studies on cancer patients. An Internet survey found that almost 55.1% of their sample indicated that MS was at least somewhat traumatic.
Despite the disease that causes the patient stress, the overriding issue seems to be that there is often not enough emotional and psychological support for any of these chronic illness patients when it comes to their mental health and their PTSD diagnosis, or lack thereof. Many of these patients have taken to social media to vent their frustrations on this topic.
Read on for some real-life accounts of PTSD associated with chronic illness.