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PTSD and Medical Illness 

PTSD and Medical Illness
PTSD and Medical Illness
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Peter Roy-Byrne

, and Murray B. Stein


There has been increasing recognition of the important and reciprocal relationship between medical illness and depressive and anxiety disorders. This chapter examines the interrelationship between medical illness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a unique disorder with features of depression and anxiety, from multiple perspectives. Medical illness, especially acute, unexpected illness and injury, can serve as a life-threatening traumatic stressor that precipitates PTSD through multiple mechanisms. PTSD, and even traumatic exposure without subsequent PTSD, may increase the risk of a variety of medical illnesses, with the most-studied illness being cardiovascular disease. PTSD may also worsen the course and outcome of already existing medical illness. Extant research has not addressed the possibility that medical Illness may worsen the course or outcome of PTSD, but similar research has shown only limited effects of medical illness on depression and anxiety outcomes. These reciprocal relationships are thought to exert their effects through mutually reinforcing neurobiological mechanisms as well as through effects on health behaviors.

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