The disorder occurs when the symptoms of psychological trauma disrupt daily functioning for at least a month. The nation has been shaken by the effects of the deadly new coronavirus for more than seven months.
“PTSD, which appears to be common among people hospitalized with Covid-19, remains underdiagnosed, untreated, and in a studied state of mental health, but can have serious long-term consequences,” said senior author Vasiliki Orgeta, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at University College London, in a statement.
“Our study provides important new evidence on 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’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 in New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center. who did not participate in the study.
“Over the last decade or so, there has simply been evidence that stress is absolutely as important as it is a risk factor for so many chronic diseases, from Alzheimer’s to diabetes and heart disease,” Isaacson said.
Twice the risk of non-military
Calling the study “the first meta-analysis of global evidence for PTSD and the risk of dementia,” the study looked at data on nearly 17 million people from 13 studies done on four
People with PTSD face a 1% to 2% higher risk of dementia up to 17 years later, according to summary data from eight of the studies.
And it was not military veterans who were most at risk. People with PTSD in the general population – probably from physical or sexual violence, a threat 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 one and a half times more likely to develop dementia than veterinarians without PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks in which a person experiences a traumatic event in some way and include physical symptoms such as a heart attack or sweating. Recurring memories or nightmares are also a sign.
People with PTSD 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 are reminiscent of the experience.
Cognitive and emotional behavior can change in PTSD – having negative or distorted thoughts, having problems concentrating or remembering, losing interest in activities, feeling isolated and unable to feel happy are common for people with the disorder. .
Increased arousal is another key sign. Symptoms include light start, a feeling of security or irritability, behaviors in risky or destructive ways, or angry and aggressive outbursts.
It is not entirely clear why PTSD would lead to dementia, but many of the symptoms of the disorder, such as hypervigilance and re-experiencing the trauma, would certainly put the brain on high alert, flooding it with stress hormones, the study suggests.
And because PTSD resilience is associated with social support and more positive thinking, becoming gloomy 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,” Isaacson said. “If we can recognize it, we can alleviate it with stress reduction techniques, by visiting qualified medical professionals, by using pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments, visiting a psychiatrist or visiting a therapist. We also need more research on this. how to reduce stress in order to protect brain health over time. “
CNN’s Amy Woodyat and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.