Similarity of Symptoms
The primary reason why PTSD often co-occurs with other mental disorders is because of the similarities between symptoms of PTSD and the symptoms of other typical mental illnesses. There are quite a lot of symptoms typically associated with PTSD that are also the typical symptoms of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others.
The traumatic event that caused the PTSD to develop often creates common symptoms of other mental illnesses, including irritability, nervousness, decreased self-esteem, sadness, guilt, and other negative symptoms.
PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder
Studies have shown that PTSD coincides the most with major depressive disorder. There are a lot of overlapping symptoms between the two, making them co-occur more easily. Major depressive disorder is a type of depression that is characterized by an individual feeling overwhelmingly depressed for a fair amount of time – two weeks being the indicative time period for diagnosis. Stressful situations and traumatic events that can cause PTSD can also cause the onset of major depressive disorder. Here are some of the most common symptoms of both PTSD and major depressive disorder that often overlap:
- lowered self-esteem
- overwhelming guilt
- difficulty concentrating
- unable to sleep
- mistrust of others
- avoiding social situations, especially large crowds
- intense sadness
- drastic change in habits, especially eating and sleeping habits
Luckily, since there are so many similarities between PTSD and major depressive disorder, it makes it that much easier for patients to be treated for both illnesses at the same time. Treatments and medications, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressants, can be extremely beneficial for both PTSD and major depressive disorder.
PTSD and Panic Disorder
Anxiety disorders can often co-occur with panic disorder, and since PTSD is classified as a type of anxiety disorder, it’s no surprise that patients with PTSD are often also diagnosed with panic disorder. Since the onset of PTSD is caused by a traumatic event and two of the most common symptoms are flashbacks and nightmares, it makes sense for patients to be more susceptible to panic attacks. If a patient is triggered by something that reminds them of a traumatic event, a panic attack can likely take place. Here are some of the symptoms of a typical panic attack:
- pain in the chest and stomach
- increased or pounding heart rate
- chills/hot flashes
- feeling of choking
- pressure on the chest
- inability to breathe
Major depressive disorder and PTSD can be treated at the same time because the treatment plans and medications are similar. The most helpful treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy and the most effective medications are a variety of different antidepressants.
PTSD and Other Anxiety Disorders
PTSD is classified as a kind of anxiety disorder, and it can cause or coincide with other types of anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder, also known as GAD, has many symptoms that are similar to those of PTSD. Here are the symptoms that overlap:
- fear and guilt
- unwarranted fear that something bad is going to happen, particularly the immense – fear that a trigger will be present or a flashback will take place
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
- avoidance of social situations, especially when trying to avoid a trigger associated with the traumatic event
- low self-esteem
The fact that patients with PTSD are susceptible to triggers that cause memories and flashbacks to flood their mind is an aspect that drastically increases anxiety and fear in individuals. Therefore, anxiety is one of the more prevalent symptoms with regards to PTSD as a disorder. Once again, anxiety disorders and PTSD can both be tackled simultaneously by participating in cognitive behavioral therapy and taking antidepressants.