Mental Illnesses That Commonly Occur with Combat PTSD
Unfortunately, when it comes to combat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), additional mental illnesses occurring with combat PTSD is almost the rule, rather than the exception. When one diagnosis exists with another, this is known as comorbidity. Studies have found that of veterans with combat PTSD, about half have an additional, current mental illness diagnosis. Comorbidity makes treating combat PTSD more complicated and, of course, tends to increase suffering for the patient. Here is some more information about mental illnesses that commonly occur with combat PTSD.
Mental Illnesses That Commonly Occur with Combat PTSD: Depression
Depression is the most commonly co-occurring mental illness with combat PTSD. In Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. An Analysis of Comorbidity, it was found that of veterans with PTSD, 95% had experienced depression in their lifetimes and 50% were currently experiencing depression.
Mental Illnesses That Commonly Occur with Combat PTSD: Anxiety
Prior to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), PTSD was categorized as an anxiety disorder; however, it is now known as a trauma and stressor-related disorder because of the ways in which it manifests. Anxiety disorders are, though, commonly comorbid with combat PTSD. Commonly co-occurring anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
Combat PTSD Commonly Occurs with Substance Use Disorders
Other mental illnesses that commonly occur with PTSD include substance use disorders. This includes substance abuse and substance dependence. Unfortunately, those with substance use disorders and PTSD experience more PTSD and other symptoms than those with PTSD only. Understanding Comorbidity Between PTSD and Substance Use Disorders: Two Preliminary Investigations looked at groups of people with PTSD and comorbid substance use disorders as compared with those who had PTSD only and found that:
- Those with both disorders experienced more PTSD hyperarousal symptoms (feeling “keyed up”)
- Those with both disorders experienced more PTSD avoidance symptoms (such as avoiding people and places that remind the individual of the trauma)
- Those with both disorders experienced more traumatic event exposure
- Those with both disorders experienced greater sleep disturbances
Treatment of PTSD and Commonly Co-Occurring Mental Illnesses
Comorbidity of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety and Depression: a 20-Year Longitudinal Study of War Veterans, found that in their lifetime, about half of veterans with PTSD actually suffer from triple comorbidity of anxiety, depression and combat PTSD so treating PTSD and its commonly co-occurring disorders is critical. Luckily, forms of psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy, have been shown to work for all three disorders and some medications, like antidepressants, are also effective at alleviating some of the symptoms of each disorder.
Regardless, though, what matters is that each co-occurring disorder be recognized so that it can be effectively treated alongside the combat PTSD because the last thing anyone wants is to be effectively treated for one disorder only to continue to suffer from another.
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Croft, H. (2015, July 31). Mental Illnesses That Commonly Occur with Combat PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/understandingcombatptsd/2015/07/mental-illnesses-that-commonly-occur-with-combat-ptsd
Author: Harry Croft, M.D.
Thanks for providing a well-written article on PTSD. It's becoming more acknowledged every day but it's still a battle we must all fight to promote public awareness.