Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event.

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TBI and PTSD Often Go Hand-in-Hand

Nadia Webb, PsyD: TBI and PTSD Often Go Hand-in-Hand
When people have a traumatic brain injury, they usually get a TBI during a car accident or some other traumatic event: assault, fall. And if it's caused by something traumatic that was caused by a natural disaster or an assault, then this is often psychologically traumatic as well. So sometimes you have PTSD and TBI and they're comorbid, meaning you have both at the same time.

What Parts of the Brain Are Impacted by PTSD?

What Parts of the Brain Are Impacted by PTSD?
[Dr. Michael Roy] The memory parts—the hippocampus— kind of lower parts of the brain— are gonna tend to be activated because those are very strong memories. The amygdala is a part of the brain that we know in PTSD is often different. It works differently. It reacts more, and the amygdala goes way back to the days of the cavemen— escaping from the saber tooth tiger— so the fight or flight response. So people with PTSD tend to have greater reactions in that part of the brain than people who don't have it— even if they're exposed to the same sort of trauma. The frontal lobe—the front part of the brain is really important for emotions. So some of the withdrawal features of PTSD— the numbing, the avoidance kind of features— we think are more represented there, and we do see in those with PTSD characteristic differences there— that they tend to have lesser activations in those areas.

Is PTSD Another Form of Brain Injury?

PTSD Is Another Form of Brain Injury
Now the other form of brain injury that we need to be talking about [Paul Aravich, PhD; Professor, Eastern Virginia Medical School] that is typically not talked about as a brain injury is post traumatic stress disorder. All of the serious mental disorders are themselves a different form of brain injury but nonetheless a brain injury. And at the world congress on Alzheimer's this past summer, some early data was reported that PTSD indeed can increase your risk for certain forms of dementia later on. Now as far as our military personnel are concerned, they have the same prejudices that people not in the military have, and there is a tremendous stigma against mental health kinds of issues. And so the person who is suffering the symptoms of PTSD and the family members who are experiencing those symptoms all too often won't seek the treatment that is potentially available to them, and they're putting themselves at risk for any number of really awful things including potentially an increased risk for some of the types of irreversible dementias that occur down the road.