Are TBIs and SCIs Related to PTSD
Is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a spinal cord injury (SCI) related to post traumatic stress disorder? The short answer is that “either can be.” However, the long answer is more complicated because neither of these injuries is an automatic guarantee that you or someone you love will develop this type of psychological condition.
What we mean by that is that while some people who sustain a TBI or an SCI may also experience PTSD, others with similar injuries may not. Conversely, some people who experience PTSD may not have suffered either type of physical injury — or any bodily injury at all.
In general, there are many things to know about living with PTSD, a TBI, or an SCI. Below, we’ll address each of these types of conditions and how these conditions can be related:
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
At its core, PTSD is a condition that results when a person of any age, race, or gender experiences some type of emotionally or psychologically traumatic event. These types of adverse occurrences can include combat, natural disasters, and assault. The trauma can be something that happens to you or a loved one, or is something that you or they witness happening to someone else. The symptoms of PTSD may not begin to emerge for weeks, months, or even years after the event.
Trauma, in and of itself, is not a rare occurrence. The National Center for PTSD estimates that 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lives, although the types of trauma vary between the gender groups. In the U.S. population, the Center estimates that up to 8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives, and 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. Women (10%) are thought to be more likely to develop this form of stress disorder, whereas men (4%) are estimated to develop the psychological disorder in their lives.
When it comes to looking at how PTSD, TBIs, and SCIs occur, spinal cord and brain injuries may be affiliated with the cause of the trauma, but the PTSD would be one of the results.
PTSD and TBI: How They Can Be Related
Traumatic brain injuries, which are a form of acquired brain injury, are caused by a physical force or factor that results in damage to the brain and are not the result of a congenital condition or degenerative disease. This damage can come in one of three forms:
- Closed head injuries, which can include coup-contrecoup brain injuries, concussions, brain contusions, diffuse axonal injuries, and second impact syndrome;
- Open-wound brain injuries (also known as penetrating brain injuries); or
- Crushing brain injuries.
The cause of the brain damage can be a traumatic event, such an attack or assault. It also can be the result of something less psychologically traumatic like being hit in the head by a falling object or a falling and hitting your head.
The severity of the injury, which can range from mild (mTBI) to severe, can be a good indicator of the potential of developing PTSD or another psychiatric disorder. According to the National Center for PTSD’s Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD web page, “Patients who have experienced mTBI are also at increased risk for psychiatric disorders compared to the general population, including depression and PTSD.”
This type of comorbidity, having both PTSD and TBI, can complicate your recovery but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Early medical treatment and intervention for a brain injury is critical to achieving optimal recovery, and receiving mental health treatment and adopting healthy behaviors can aid in recovery for PTSD.
How PTSD Can Relate to Spinal Cord Injuries
Much like traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries also can result in the development of PTSD. Part of this can be due to the way that an SCI occurs, such as the result of a horrific car accident or being the victim of a violent attack, which a spinal cord injury survivor may relive in their mind for years to come.
Another reason is that an SCI can affect virtually every aspect of your life — everything from the sensory and motor functions of your body to your ability to use the restroom, eat, or live independently. This life-altering change can result in a negative impact on your mental health.According to an SCI research study published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry:
“Nearly half (48.5%) of the population with spinal cord injury suffered mental health problems of depression (37%), anxiety (30%), clinical-level stress (25%) or post-traumatic stress disorder (8.4%). Overall, there was a twofold or more increase in the probability of emotional disorders compared to the general population.”
As you can see, PTSD, TBIs, and SCIs can be related but are not always experienced by all individuals. When you or someone you love sustains one of those injuries, you may or may not develop PTSD as a result.
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Spinal Cord Team