PTSD After Having A Stroke

Stroke patients reported post traumatic stress disorder symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Having a stroke can be a traumatic event in a person’s life. There may even be a risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after having a stroke.

A recent review looked at several studies that tested for PTSD in stroke patients.

The results of that study found that nearly one quarter of all stroke patients had symptoms of PTSD within one year of experiencing a stroke.

"Tell a doctor if your experiencing PTSD symptoms."

Donald Edmondson, PhD, from the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, led a study into symptoms of PTSD in people who had experienced a stroke.

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event that usually involves physical harm or the threat of physical harm, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.

Symptoms of PTSD can include angry outbursts, feelings of guilt or numbness, avoidance behaviors, flashbacks, trouble sleeping and/or feeling on edge.

According the study authors, people who have lived through a short-term life-threatening illness, such as a stroke, may experience symptoms of PTSD.

For this review, the researchers evaluated nine medical studies that included 1,138 stroke and mini-stroke patients who had been tested for PTSD.

Like a stroke, a mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack, involves loss of blood flow and possible paralysis, loss of vision, weakness, numbness, slurred speech and/or mental confusion. With a mini-stroke, however, the symptoms are temporary. 

The researchers found that within one year, 23 percent of stroke or mini-stroke patients had symptoms of PTSD.

After one year, 11 percent of stroke and mini-stroke patients had symptoms of PTSD.

"Although PTSD is commonly thought to be triggered by external events such as combat or sexual assault, these results suggest that 1 in 4 stroke or [mini-stroke] survivors develop significant PTSD symptoms due to the stroke or [mini-stroke]," the study authors wrote.

"Fortunately, there are good treatments for PTSD. But first, physicians and patients have to be aware that this is a problem. Family members can also help. We know that social support is a good protective factor against PTSD due to any type of traumatic event," Dr. Edmondson said in a press release.

This study was published in June in PLOS ONE.

This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences/National Center for Research Resources, the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The authors reported no conflicts on interest.

Review Date: 
June 21, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013