PTSD May Raise Physical Woes in Women

Traumatic disorder linked to more physical illness than depression alone

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MONDAY, June 28, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- For many women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), declines in mental and physical health too often go hand-in-hand, researchers report.

"Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with a greater burden of medical illness than is seen in depression alone," write the authors of a study in the June 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

First associated with returning Vietnam veterans, PTSD can affect survivors of traumatic events such as natural disasters, violent crimes or serious accidents. Symptoms include intrusive flashbacks to the trauma, nightmares, insomnia, emotional withdrawal and depression.

In a study involving 30,000 women, researchers at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health System in California compared the number of medical symptoms and overall health status of women with PTSD, women diagnosed with depression alone, and women without depression or PTSD.

They found women with PTSD reported poorer health and more physical illnesses than women who have only depression.

In fact, across all age groups, women with PTSD had more medical conditions and worse physical health status -- things such as low daily energy, chronic pain and poor physical functioning -- than women with depression alone or women with neither PTSD or depression.

PTSD may turn out to be "an important component" of the excess rate of illness and death seen in depressed women, the study authors conclude.

The California team also found that, among women younger than 45, 17 percent had a reported history of PTSD, while 25 percent had a reported history of depression. Those rates were roughly similar for middle-aged women between 45 and 64, and fell to 4 percent and 20 percent, respectively, for women aged 65 or older.

More information

The American Psychiatric Association has more about posttraumatic stress disorder.

SOURCE: American Medical Association, news release, June 28, 2004

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