Can PTSD cause physical illness?

Yes, PTSD can cause physical illness. People suffering from this mental health condition are more likely to suffer from a variety of physical ailments due to their stress levels and other psychological effects. These may include frequent headaches, digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome or chronic stomach pains, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, lowered immunity, muscular pain and tension and more. Other studies have linked PTSD with an increase in risk for heart attack or stroke due to the elevated levels of inflammation related to the disorder. Those struggling with PTSD often practice unhealthy behaviors such as smoking or drinking alcohol which can contribute further to physical illnesses.

The Connection between PTSD and Physical Health

The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, on one’s mental health is widely known and documented. But it’s not always apparent how strongly the disorder can connect with physical health – and in turn compromise overall wellbeing. Studies indicate that when an individual has been diagnosed with PTSD, he or she is more likely to suffer from a host of physical conditions as well.

These physical issues can range from disrupted sleep patterns to chronic pain. Individuals living with PTSD may also experience stomach problems and digestive disorders due to the emotional impact of the condition, leading them to be at greater risk for gastrointestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. As if this weren’t enough, those struggling from PTSD might develop complications related to their circulatory system like high blood pressure and increased heart rate – which can then lead to further medical concerns like stroke or coronary artery disease down the line.

But what exactly creates this connection between trauma survivors’ mental and physical states? It appears that prolonged exposure to cortisol – otherwise known as ‘the stress hormone’ – plays a major role here: during long periods of distress or trauma, cortisol levels rise sharply in an attempt to help cope with overwhelming emotions – however excessive secretion (or even misfiring) over time can cause a variety of lasting damage on our bodies ranging from hormonal imbalance all the way through autoimmune diseases depending upon genetics, lifestyle factors etc. Making it important for sufferers of PTSD ensure they take care of themselves physically too in addition to working through their psychological issues.

The Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD can cause numerous symptoms that often have a severe physical and emotional impact on those affected. Those with PTSD may find themselves frequently reliving past traumatic events, having nightmares or flashbacks to these experiences, feeling more emotional, and becoming easily startled by loud noises or unexpected events. They may suffer from depression, hyperarousal, intense fear and anxiety, social isolation and avoidance behaviors.

The physical effects of PTSD can range widely as well, including headaches, difficulty sleeping, chest tightness or pain, fatigue and dizziness. People with PTSD may also suffer digestive problems such as nausea or upset stomachs along with joint or muscle aches or tremors in the body. In some cases there is an onset of autoimmune disorders related to the mental stress associated with PTSD due to the increased presence of inflammatory cells in the body’s system when it is under chronic distress.

PTSD can be very debilitating for those suffering from it – impacting not only their state of mind but also their overall health and wellness. Many times these physical ailments are misdiagnosed because doctors are unaware of the correlation between psychological stressors like PTSD-induced trauma and physical illness. It is important for medical professionals to recognize the potential connection in order to provide effective treatment plans that cater to all facets of the person’s condition – both mental and physical.

Manifestation of Physical Illness due to PTSD

Although post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness, it can manifest itself in physical illnesses. Trauma experienced by individuals with PTSD triggers an inflammatory response from their bodies and raises the risk of physical health issues such as headaches, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, fatigue and insomnia. In some cases, cardiac conditions like arrhythmia and increased blood pressure may occur due to prolonged high levels of stress hormones.

A person affected by PTSD may experience disruption of the normal hormonal balance resulting in different symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Intense flashbacks or episodes of dissociation might also be accompanied with gastrointestinal problems. The onset of digestive disorders could vary from intermittent upset stomachs to more serious gut dysfunctions including malnutrition caused by decreased appetite or frequent vomiting due to anxiety triggered by memories associated with trauma.

Studies have shown that persons suffering from PTSD are especially prone to developing autoimmune diseases due to overactivity of their immune systems caused by fear or terror evoked during traumas they experienced earlier on in life. This state often leads to destruction of red blood cells which further results in anemia or other symptoms resulting from dysfunctioning organs being constantly attacked by the body’s own defense system instead of being protected against infections and illnesses as they should normally do.

The Impact of Trauma on the Body and Mind

The connection between physical and mental health has been more widely accepted over the years, leading to a greater understanding of how trauma can negatively affect both the body and mind. When an individual experiences intense trauma or stress, it can cause them to become physically ill as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is caused by experiencing or witnessing any kind of traumatic event; this could be something like being in an accident or a natural disaster.

Studies have shown that people who are living with PTSD are more likely to suffer from various physical ailments, such as headaches, chest pain and digestive issues. They may also experience chronic fatigue due to their sleep patterns becoming disrupted. Their immune systems may be weakened by their state of distress – making them much more vulnerable to illnesses like colds and viruses.

The psychological impact that trauma has on an individual should not be overlooked either; it can lead to symptoms such as depression and anxiety which can further complicate other medical issues they might have. Suicidal thoughts have been linked to PTSD – highlighting just how devastatingly serious untreated trauma can be. Therefore it’s essential for those affected by PTSD to get treatment sooner rather than later, so that they don’t needlessly suffer through long-term illnesses or worse.

How PTSD Affects the Immune System

The effects of PTSD on the body’s immune system are becoming increasingly well documented. Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder are more vulnerable to contracting various illnesses due to a weakened immune response, leaving their bodies less able to fight off diseases. Studies have found that people with PTSD are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from an infectious or autoimmune illness compared to those without PTSD. This can include conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Type 1 Diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis amongst many others.

Researchers believe that this increased vulnerability is due to PTSD altering the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis (HPA) – the physiological connection between two areas of the brain and two major glands in the body. The HPA is responsible for controlling and modulating a range of bodily functions such as metabolism, immunity and mood; so when it becomes activated during periods of trauma, these processes become dysregulated which then weakens our ability to cope with potential pathogens.

Stress hormones released in response to traumatic memories can also be damaging long-term; if not processed correctly they remain stored in cells throughout the body including within our immune system, meaning that we continue to experience elevated levels of cortisol even after the event has passed. Chronic stress caused by ongoing exposure or repetition impacts our immunological responses too, increasing inflammation and exacerbating existing symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders or any other illnesses linked to poorer health outcomes in those with PTSD.

Mental Health Treatment for those with PTSD and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions

A diagnosis of PTSD does not necessarily mean that a person will experience physical illnesses; however, individuals with PTSD are more likely to suffer from additional mental and physical health problems. The symptoms of PTSD can lead to poor self-care practices which can take a toll on the body. People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who also have co-occurring medical conditions such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep disturbances, digestive issues or musculoskeletal ailments may require more specialized care in order to address their needs.

The first step when seeking out treatment for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder is to identify whether the individual has any co-occurring medical conditions that need to be addressed alongside their mental illness. It is important for an individual seeking treatment for both PTSD and other medical issues to find providers who specialize in treating both disorders simultaneously. This could include psychologists, psychiatrists and primary care physicians who understand how these two conditions interact with one another and how they can affect each other’s prognosis.

Treatment protocols should consist of appropriate medication management tailored specifically for someone’s unique situation along with psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This combination of medications and psychotherapy has been found to be the most effective form of treatment in addressing PTSD and associated physical illnesses at the same time. It is essential that anyone suffering from post traumatic stress disorder receives adequate support systems including family members, friends or therapists so they have someone always monitoring their progress while managing their condition over time.

Living with physical health conditions related to PTSD can be a difficult experience. It can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed, embarrassed and alone. Despite these obstacles, many people who are living with PTSD-related illnesses still find that they need access to additional resources and support networks in order to cope effectively.

One way of finding support is through joining online or in-person groups that cater specifically to those suffering from physical symptoms due to their mental health struggles. Here, members can find understanding peers who can relate first-hand to the experience of managing pain and other challenging physical manifestations of PTSD. Such forums may offer helpful advice on how best to navigate different treatment methods for the particular disorder at hand. Individuals have an opportunity to connect with professionals that may be able to provide more tailored guidance on maintaining better physical health with their diagnosis.

Individuals living with PTSD-related physical ailments should also reach out for counseling services if available in their area. Professional therapists will likely have an array of tools which one could employ as part of their self-care routine including psychotherapy sessions, breathing exercises, sleep hygiene techniques and more depending on individual needs. Aside from providing psychological support, therapists may even be able refer patients onto further medical assistance where needed so long as it falls within the scope of care offered by their practice.

About the author.
Jay Roberts is the founder of the Debox Method and after nearly 10 years and hundreds of sessions, an expert in the art of emotional release to remove the negative effects of trauma. Through his book, courses, coaching, and talks Jay’s goal is to teach as many people as he can the power of the Debox Method. 

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