The disorder occurs when symptoms from a psychological trauma disrupt daily functioning for at least a month. The nation has been deterred by the effects of the deadly new coronavirus for over seven months.
“PTSD, which seems to be common among people who have been hospitalized with Covid-19, remains an underdiagnosed, under-treated and under-examined mental health condition, yet it can have serious long-term consequences,” said senior author Vasiliki Orgeta, a Associate Professor in the Department of psychiatry at University College London, in a statement.
“Our study provides important new evidence for how traumatic experiences can affect brain health and how the long-term effects of trauma can affect the brain in many ways, increasing vulnerability to cognitive decline and dementia,” Orgeta said.
“I am 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 the New York Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.
“In the last decade or so, there has just 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,” Isaacson said.
Twice the risk of non-military
Called the research “the first meta-analysis of global evidence for PTSD and dementia risk”, the study examined data on nearly 17 million people from 13 studies conducted on four
People with PTSD faced a 1% to 2% higher risk of dementia up to 17 years later, according to overall data from eight of the studies.
And it was not military veterans who had the greatest risk. People with PTSD in the general population – possibly from physical or sexual abuse, threat of death, car accidents, terrorism or other trauma – were more than twice as likely to develop dementia than adults without such a diagnosis.
Veterans with PTSD were half times more likely to develop dementia than veterinarians without PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks in which a person relives the traumatic event in some way and include physical symptoms such as a racing heart or sweating. Repeated memories or nightmares are also a sign.
People with PTSD will also try to avoid thoughts or feelings related to the trauma, and they can often change their behavior to stay away from people, places, or objects reminiscent of the experience.
Cognition and emotional behavior can change with PTSD – having negative or distorted thoughts, having difficulty concentrating or remembering, losing interest in activities, feeling isolated and not being able to feel happy are all common to people with the disorder. .
An increased state of arousal is another key sign. Symptoms include being slightly startled, feeling awake or irritable, behaving in risky or destructive ways, or having angry and aggressive outbursts.
It is not entirely clear why PTSD will cause dementia, but many of the symptoms of the disorder, such as hypervigilance and re-experiencing the trauma, will certainly put the brain on high alert and flood it with stress hormones, the study suggested.
And since resistance to PTSD is associated with social support and more positive thinking, being in the mood and isolated from family and friends can “reduce cognitive reserve and resilience,” the study said.
“Is post-traumatic stress disorder a modifiable risk factor? I would say yes,” Isaccson said. “If we can recognize it, we can mitigate it with stress reduction techniques by seeing qualified medical professionals using pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments, by seeing a psychiatrist or seeing a therapist. We also need more research on how to minimizes stress in order to protect the health of the brain over time. “
CNN’s Amy Woodyatt and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.