PTSD May Affect Stroke Treatment

Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms after a stroke may get in the way of stroke treatments

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Having a stroke can be a traumatic and stressful experience. After a stroke, some people may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that interfere with their stroke treatments.

A recent study found that people who had PTSD symptoms, like nightmares and anxiety, after having a stroke were more likely to have concerns about their medicines to help prevent another stroke. Also, about 65 percent of people with PTSD symptoms did not take their medicines properly. 

The authors concluded that PTSD symptoms may affect their stroke treatment, so doctors should watch for these symptoms.

"Tell your doctor about any PTSD symptoms."

Medicines for stroke survivors are designed to prevent another stroke, so taking medicines according to a doctors recommendation is important.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, led by Donald Edmonson, PhD, interviewed 535 people who had had strokes. They asked them about PTSD symptoms, the way they were taking their medicines and if they had concerns about their stroke medicine. All participants were over the age of 40 and had had a stroke within the past five years.

PTSD occurs after a traumatic experience. Some symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks or nightmares about the traumatic experience. People with PTSD may also experience anxiety, trouble sleeping, memory problems and relationship troubles. 

The researchers found that the level of PTSD symptoms and concerns about medicines were associated with people not taking their medicines properly.

Specifically, 65 percent of stroke survivors with PTSD did not follow their doctors orders for taking medicines.  For people without PTSD symptoms, only 33 percent did not take their medicines properly.

People with PTSD were also more likely to have concerns about their medicines, to complain that their medicine interfered with life and to worry about the safety of taking those medicines long-term.

The authors concluded that people with PTSD were less likely to use their medicines properly after a stroke, which might affect their recovery and future stroke risk.

In a press release, co-author Ian Konish, MD, MPH, said, "For those with PTSD, this study shows that concerns about medications are a significant barrier to treatment adherence. Stroke survivors should be assessed for concerns about medications and PTSD symptoms, so that interventions may be introduced as early as possible to get patients back on track to avoid future stroke events."

The study was published January 18 in the British Journal of Health Psychology. Researchers for this project were funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Center for Research Resources and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 23, 2013
Last Updated:
January 27, 2013