People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often have other disorders too. This can make it difficult to accurately diagnose PTSD.
Major depression and substance use disorder are particularly common in people with PTSD. They may also have an increased risk of panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), dissociative disorders, and social phobia.
Scientists are not sure to what extent these co-occurring conditions are present before — or come after — the traumatic event and the development of PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after experiencing a traumatic event. The symptoms include intrusive thoughts, avoiding things that remind you of the trauma, and physical symptoms, like headaches or chronic pain.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), PTSD affects about 3.6% of adults in the United States.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that additional health issues accompanying the disorder are common. About 80% of people with PTSD have an additional mental or physical health issue.
Studies have suggested that genetics may be a risk factor for many mental health conditions. Research from 2010 suggests that this could also be the case for PTSD, further explaining the frequent occurrence of other conditions.
Causes of PTSD can include:
- violence, including physical or sexual
- physical, mental, or emotional abuse
- discrimination, including both daily microaggressions and overt experiences of discrimination
- car accidents
- natural disasters
People with PTSD are at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder — often in an attempt to cope — and people with pre-existing SUD have a higher risk of developing PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.
The Department of Veteran Affairs reports this connection among veterans. Over 2 in 10 veterans with PTSD also have a SUD — and almost 1 in 3 veterans looking for treatment for SUD also has a PTSD diagnosis.
Depression and trauma are often linked.
Trauma has a major impact on your nervous system and brain chemicals, sometimes leading to a shutdown or “freeze” state. This is part of your body’s fight, flight, or freeze response that helps protect you from danger. The freeze response helps you avoid the threat by “playing dead” or distancing yourself from the threat.
The symptoms of freeze states parallel the symptoms of depression, including:
- depressed mood
- low motivation
- slowed breathing
- feeling numb
- a loss of pleasure in things that you used to enjoy
PTSD can also lead to isolation and distancing yourself from others, which may be linked with the symptoms of depression.
PTSD is linked with several anxiety disorders.
For example, a 2013 study reported that
Common symptoms of both PTSD and anxiety include:
- avoiding feared situations
- panic attacks
Like depression, anxiety can also arise as part of your body’s fight, flight, or freeze response. Anxiety involves increased breath and heart rate, which helps protect you from danger by preparing your body to run away or fight back.
Other anxiety disorders that may be related to PTSD include:
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that involves a fear of abandonment, extreme mood shifts, unstable relationships, and significant emotional distress. BPD is often related to early experiences of trauma.
A 2015 study found that
BPD and PTSD have
- anger issues
- interpersonal problems
- obsessive-compulsive thoughts and symptoms
- suicidal thoughts
Dissociation is a common result of trauma.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 90% of people with dissociative disorders have experienced childhood abuse and neglect.
Dissociation is a disconnect between your thoughts, memories, emotions, and sense of self. It can happen during a traumatic event as your body’s way of distancing yourself from a very difficult situation. Dissociation can also arise long after the traumatic event has ended.
Each person’s experience of dissociation may be slightly different. Two major types of dissociation are:
- Depersonalization: where you feel disconnected from your body. Some describe it as an out-of-body experience.
- Derealization: where people or objects around you appear unreal. The world may appear “unnatural.”
There are three types of dissociative disorder:
Traumatic brain injuries have varied psychological effects, including subsequent depression, anxiety, and aggression.
A 2015 study on veterans supports the idea that PTSD and severe brain injuries often go hand-in-hand, showing the potential for weakened brain connectivity for those with both conditions.
Many studies have shown that PTSD is related to other mental health conditions, including:
- substance use disorders
- dissociative disorders
- traumatic brain injuries
If you or a loved one has PTSD and other mental health conditions, know that there are treatment options and support. Depending on the conditions you are dealing with, your treatment options include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
Many types of therapy can be used to help with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- prolonged exposure (PE) therapy
- trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT) for children
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
- psychodynamic therapy
- group therapy for trauma
- somatic experiencing (SE)
In addition to finding support groups and online communities, there are both in-person and virtual options to connect with a clinician with experience in your circumstances.
If you’re looking for a therapist but aren’t sure where to start, consider checking out Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource.