According to researchers the risk of developing PTSD increases after a mild traumatic brain injury. Researchers from a variety of organizations which included Washington University in St. Louis, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, San Francisco General Hospital, and the University of California, San Francisco performed evaluations on various factors that were related to mental health and functioning issues. The hope is that understanding how this type of injury affects mental health and contributes to PTSD and other mental disorders will lead to better screening, more accurate detection and diagnosis, and earlier treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. The impact that mTBI had was explored in emergency services providers who were civilians rather than evaluating the impact on military personnel. In the study roughly 27% of patients who had suffered mTBI screened positive for PTSD at a follow up screening 6 months after their injury.
The study on PTSD and mild traumatic brain injury was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma and the findings show the importance of following up after a mTBI. Medical College of Virginia Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, professor and Journal of Neurotrauma editor in chief John T. Povlishock, Ph.D. explained “This study represents yet another important communication originating from the CDC and the TRACK-TBI study group that now reframes PTSD within the context of civilian TBI. The finding of a relatively significant proportion of civilian patients experiencing PTSD following mild TBI calls for its more routine evaluation, particularly in those patients with the added comorbid factors identified in this report.”
A recent study on sleep disorders, military veterans, and PTSD shows that these disorders have increased considerably in the last decade. The study involved over 9.7 million United States military veterans and the results showed that in 2010 vets had a risk of developing sleep disorders which was more than 6 times what the rate was in 2000. Because patients with PTSD, or those who had combat experience or another mental disorder, had the greatest rate increase the connection between these conditions is hard to ignore. During the study period the PTSD prevalence among vets also tripled. Study participants with chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and others also had higher rates of sleep disorders as well.
University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics associate professor, senior study author, and principal investigator James Burch, Ph.D., discussed the study on sleep disorders, military veterans, and PTSD. Burch explained that “Veterans with PTSD had a very high sleep disorder prevalence of 16 percent, the highest among the various health conditions or other population characteristics that we examined. Because of the way this study was designed, this does not prove that PTSD caused the increase in sleep disorder diagnoses. However, we recently completed a follow-up study, soon to be submitted for publication, that examined this issue in detail. In that study, a pre-existing history of PTSD was associated with an increased odds of sleep disorder onset.” The study results must be viewed with the fact that 93% of the study participants were men while only 7% were women.
A research study conducted in partnership by the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System has shown that veterans who suffer from both PTSD and substance use disorder have an increased risk of death. This is the very first study which examines associations and links between substance use disorder and death for vets who have PTSD, and the study included data on the youngest veterans who have come back from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. According to VA Ann Arbor post-doctoral fellow, University of Michigan research fellow, and lead author of the study Kipling Bohnert, Ph.D., the study provides some important clues about the best methods of treating veterans for positive outcomes.
Bohnert the study underlines the importance of treating veterans for both PTSD and substance use disorder, explaining “Attention needs to be paid to veteran patients with PTSD, with an emphasis on identifying those who might also have a problem with drug or alcohol use. This study highlights the potential importance of effective treatment for both conditions in helping veterans after they’ve returned from conflict.” More research is necessary to determine why younger vets seem to exhibit stronger associations between the risk of death and substance use disorders. Director of the National Serious Mental Illness Treatment Research & Evaluation Center at the VA Federic C. Blow, Ph.D., who is also the senior author of the study paper which was published, stated “In theory, a treatment program that addresses both issues — substance use and PTSD — should reduce the risk of death from all causes, and this may be especially true for the nation’s youngest veterans.”
Researchers have recently determined that neurochemical imbalances linked to 2 different neurochemical systems in the brain cause PTSD susceptibility. Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, researchers and investigators teamed up to identify the causes and linked associations with PTSD and what they found was not surprising. The more out of balance these 2 neurochemical systems are the more severe the post traumatic stress disorder symptoms can be. In the past research has shown that those who suffer from PTSD have brain function and physical brain anatomy that is changed and altered when compared to those who do not have this condition. The systems in the brain affected by PTSD include serotonin and a chemical termed substance P. The researchers used PET imaging scans in order to determine the link between these 2 neurochemical systems and PTSD. When these systems are not properly balanced then one or both signaling systems can cause symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
The study results on neurochemical system imbalances and PTSD were published and can be found in the Molecular Psychiatry journal. According to Uppsala University Department of Psychology researcher and lead study author Andreas Frick “At present, PTSD is often treated with selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which have a direct effect on the serotonin system. SSRI drugs provide relief for many but do not help everybody. Restoring the balance between the serotonin and substance P systems could become a new treatment strategy for individuals suffering from traumatic incidents.” The study showed that the level of imbalance between the different neurochemical signaling systems will determine how severe the PTSD symptoms become.