The Facts about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Concussion
An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives, with the incidence even higher for military members and veterans. In addition to PTSD, traumatic events can produce concussions.
Since many symptoms of PTSD overlap with the symptoms of concussion (including headache, fatigue, dizziness, and anxiety), it can be difficult to determine if the patient has a concussion, PTSD, or both. It is therefore important to seek a comprehensive evaluation by a medical provider trained in concussion management and treatment to help disentangle a complex clinical profile.
In addition to complicating diagnostic clarification, overlapping symptoms of PTSD and concussion may lead to a more complex course of treatment. For example, depressed mood and increased anxiety associated with PTSD may contribute to ongoing cognitive problems, which could also be attributed to concussion. Likewise, physical symptoms of concussion, such as headaches, may reduce the tolerance a patient has for the potentially emotionally demanding psychotherapeutic exercises needed for PTSD.
When dealing with a traumatic injury, it is critical to seek out a comprehensive evaluation that includes diagnostic measures for both concussion and PTSD. A tailored treatment approach should take into consideration the interplay of concussion and PTSD symptoms, while recognizing the two distinct diagnoses with different clinical characteristics and treatment pathways. Both PTSD and concussion should be actively managed by a team of individuals with expertise in treating these particular conditions.