Effects of PTSD on Physical Health
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder, so many patients fail to connect it with its physical symptoms. Physical symptoms and pain symptoms are quite common in individuals with PTSD due to the following reasons:
- Trauma may cause physical health problems
- Physical symptoms may result from the symptoms of PTSD. For example, stress and anxiety are common with PTSD, and both of these issues can trigger problems like back pain or stomachaches.
- Traumatic events can cause both physical and psychological health effects, like when a soldier experiences trauma during combat experience, because a physical injury may be conjoined with emotional trauma
- Certain medications that treat PTSD, anxiety and stress can trigger physical symptoms
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that creates hyper-arousal, stress, nightmares, sleep disturbances, irritability, emotional pain and more. A patient’s mental state will affect her physically. Being stressed out and having sleep troubles is abnormal and will eventually damage her. High stress levels and hyper-arousal symptoms keep the body’s cortisol levels higher than normal. Cortisol regulates the immune system, blood sugar levels and neurotransmitters in the brain, and heightened cortisol levels cause physical symptoms as a result.
Physical Symptoms of PTSD
The following physical health issues co-occur with PTSD:
- Autoimmune disease
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Interstitial cystitis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Stomachaches, constipation
- Body aches and pain
- Chronic headaches and migraines
If you notice any of these symptoms, PTSD may be the cause, so seek professional help as soon as possible.
Diagnosing PTSD and Physical Symptoms
Without diagnosing PTSD, patients and physicians may be unable to determine the cause of problems. Medication and other treatment may alleviate physical symptoms temporarily, but if PTSD remains undiagnosed then physical symptoms will continue because its root cause goes unnoticed.
Lacking a diagnosis is a major problem among people with PTSD. When both physical and psychological symptoms interfere with life and treatment seems ineffective, life can seem miserable. To cope with both physical and emotional pain, patients may turn to the following unhealthy methods: self-medicating, substance abuse, smoking, overeating, obsessive and controlled eating, promiscuity and other unhealthy behaviors. The longer PTSD goes untreated, the more damage someone will endure. Both physical and psychological health problems gradually spread to an individual’s social and economic life, which will impact relationships, careers, finances, lifestyle, wellbeing and more.
The only good side to experiencing physical symptoms from PTSD is that the disorder may be easier to diagnose. When individuals are aware of the long-term physical health effects of trauma, they can use these symptoms to uncover the bigger issues at hand. Treating PTSD can eliminate both psychological and physical health problems, so seek professional help as soon as possible to recover.
Treating PTSD and Physical Symptoms
If you want to learn more about treating PTSD and co-occurring issues, then call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline. A recovery professional can assist you with all your questions, concerns and needed information. Counselors can also connect you with the right treatment services if you are ready, so there is no need to delay finding help.