The disorder occurs when the symptoms of psychological trauma disrupt daily functioning for at least a month. The nation has been rocked by the impact of the deadly new coronavirus for over seven months.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder, which appears to be common among people who have been hospitalized with Covid-19, remains an underdiagnosed, undertreated and researched mental health condition, but can have serious long-term consequences,” said senior author Vasiliki Orgeta, an associate professor in the division of psychiatry at University College London, in a statement.
“Our study provides important new evidence of how traumatic experiences can impact brain health and how the long-term effects of trauma can impact the brain in many ways by increasing vulnerability to cognitive decline and dementia.” Orgeta said.
“I’m not at all shocked that the most severe levels of stress, post traumatic stress disorder, are associated with dementia,” said neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.
“Over the past decade or so, there has only been an explosion of evidence that stress is absolutely as important as a risk factor for so many chronic medical conditions from Alzheimer’s to diabetes and heart disease,” he said. Isaacson.
Double the risk for non-military people
Calling the research “the first meta-analysis of global evidence on the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and dementia,” the study looked at data on nearly 17 million people from 13 out of four studies.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder faced a 1% to 2% higher risk of dementia up to 17 years later, according to pooled data from eight studies.
And it wasn’t military veterans who took the highest risk. People with PTSD in the general population – possibly from physical or sexual abuse, threat death, traffic accidents, terrorism or other trauma – were more than twice as likely to develop dementia as adults without such a diagnosis.
Veterans with PTSD were one and a half more likely to develop dementia than veterans without PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, in which a person somehow relives the traumatic event and include physical symptoms such as heartbeat or sweating. Recurring memories or nightmares are also a sign.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder will also try to avoid thoughts or feelings related to the trauma and can often change their behavior to stay away from people, places, or objects that remember the experience.
Cognition and emotional behavior can change with post-traumatic stress disorder: having negative or distorted thoughts, having trouble concentrating or remembering, losing interest in activities, feeling isolated, and not being able to experience happiness are all common for people with the disorder.
A heightened state of arousal is another key sign. Symptoms include being easily frightened, feeling alert or irritable, behaving in risky or destructive ways, or having outbursts of anger and aggression.
It’s not entirely clear why post-traumatic stress disorder leads to dementia, but many of the symptoms of the disorder, such as hypervigilance and reliving trauma would definitely put the brain on alert, flooding it with stress hormones, suggests. study.
And because PTSD resilience is associated with social support and more positive thinking, becoming moody and isolated from family and friends can “reduce cognitive reserve and resilience,” the study says.
“Is PTSD a modifiable risk factor? I would say yes,” Isaccson said. “If we can recognize this, we can mitigate it with stress reduction techniques, seeing qualified medical professionals, using drug and non-drug treatments, seeing a psychiatrist or therapist. We also need more research on how to minimize stress in order to protect health. of the brain over time “.
Amy Woodyatt and Jacqueline Howard of CNN contributed to this report.