Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by a traumatic event. While most of us are aware of the mental health implications of PTSD, many aren’t familiar with the physical health conditions.
Though PTSD is a mental condition, your body can hold onto the trauma by influencing the central nervous system and evoking physical responses to stress and fear. Understanding the connection between traumatic experiences and physical health is a crucial part of treating both. Learn more about the physical health conditions that can stem from PTSD with this guide.
People with PTSD may experience chronic pain, which can be the result of a heightened nervous system response. When something triggers a trauma response, the nervous system activates, leading to an increased heart rate, agitation, and muscle tension. Chronic pain can also result from prior traumatic events that have caused physical injuries, such as a car accident. In situations like these, the pain itself can act as a reminder of the trauma, creating a cyclical link between chronic pain and PTSD.
PTSD can also contribute to cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. A traumatic event can result in the release of stress hormones such as cortisol into the body. Furthermore, cortisol levels can spike during panic attacks and other symptoms of PTSD. Over time, high levels of cortisol harm the cardiovascular system. The ongoing stress and anxiety can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other conditions that increase your risk for heart disease.
A person with PTSD may experience nightmares, sleep apnea, or restless sleep resulting in insomnia. Sleep deprivation can lead to exhaustion and irritability; it can also interfere with one’s ability to complete regular daily activities. Insomnia and chronic fatigue exacerbate other symptoms of PTSD, which in turn makes it even harder to sleep. This creates a harmful cycle that increases your chances of long-term sleep issues.
Achieving Mental and Physical Wellness
One of the biggest challenges surrounding the physical health conditions that can stem from PTSD is that you can’t treat them on their own. To truly overcome these issues and preserve your physical health, you must address your mental health as well. By seeking care from mental health professionals alongside medical doctors, you can find more holistic treatment that addresses all sides of the issue, giving you the care you need to lead a healthier life.