The long term effects of PTSD
A recent study has revealed information about the long term effects of PTSD. The study, an epidemiologic study of Vietnam-era veterans, found that a baseline diagnosis of PTSD resulted in higher levels of major depression, alcohol abuse and antisocial personality disorder. Additionally, individuals diagnosed with PTSD were found to have nearly double the risk for mortality related to atheroscierotic and ischemic heart disease compared to controls diagnosed with heart problems. The following is an excerpt of an article from Journal Watch that reviews the study:
Over follow-up, 52 deaths from ischemic heart disease were identified. A baseline diagnosis of PTSD more than doubled the risk for mortality related to ischemic or atherosclerotic heart disease before age 65. Even after adjustment for traditional risk factors (e.g., smoking, obesity, and depression), a PTSD diagnosis in individuals free of heart disease at baseline independently increased mortality risk, and the size of this risk correlated to PTSD severity. Risk further increased with combat exposure.
Comment: The risk for early death due to heart disease is relatively low overall in this study, but the increased risk that is independently associated with PTSD remains noteworthy. Inflammatory processes associated with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation have been postulated as potential mechanisms contributing to atherosclerosis in individuals with PTSD.