Can PTSD Lead to Anxiety Disorders?

by | Jul 6, 2020

The question, can PTSD lead to anxiety disorders isn’t all that farfetched, being that PTSD and GAD can actually happen at the same time. This comes as no surprise given that PTSD is related to trauma and stress which can become evident in different ways for each individual.
PTSD is typically caused by being exposed to violence, trauma, threats, exposure to death or a serious injury which can cause generalized anxiety disorders each having their own exclusive symptoms, characteristics and causes.
There are other co-occurring disorders that can happen in addition to GAD such as pain disorder, specific phobia, OCD and social anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

At some point we all worry about something or other, however, GAD goes beyond the normal worry most of us experience. It is clear as an excessive worry about events or subjects that last for more than five months.

Someone suffering from GAD can’t seem to get a handle on the worrying and can negatively affect their day to day living, work and relationships, with little relief.

You could have GAD if you have at least three of the following cognitive or physical symptoms:

  • Restlessness and/or edginess
  • Tiring easily or fatigue
  • Your mind suddenly goes blank or have trouble concentrating
  • External or internal irritability
  • Trouble sleeping

Some things need to be ruled out in order to confirm a diagnosis, such as, medications, illicit drug use, medical conditions, alcohol use or neurological problems.

The Connection Between GAD and PTSD

Approximately one in six people that suffer from PTSD will experience GAD at some point. Research further shows that the amount of GAD in those that suffer from PTSD is as great as six times higher that found in the general population. That’s why the question, Can PTSD lead to anxiety disorders is not that unbelievable.

Although it is not entirely clear why PTSD and GAD co-exist, it is clear that worrying is a typical symptom of PTSD, sometimes even a coping mechanism. Emotional responses are usually heightened with PTSD and can become out of control as they get over exaggerated.

 Exaggerated worry can give them some distance from the feeling and thoughts they have trouble facing. Also possible is that PTSD and GAD are similar in origin. As trauma is the essential cause of PTSD, it may also be the cause that leads to GAD.

Can PTSD Lead to Anxiety Disorders?

More Disorders that Co-Exist with PTSD

GAD is not the only anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder that can exist alongside PTSD with symptoms that overlap…

Panic disorder – About seven percent of people with PTSD will experience panic disorder. They experience sudden panic attacks and continuously worry about future ones. It happens four times more than that of the general population if they suffer from PTSD.

Social anxiety disorder – This is explained by the avoidance and powerful fear of social circumstances. Both PTSD and social anxiety are characterized by thoughts of not fitting in and being isolated.

Specific phobia – Specific phobias are defined by fear of specific objects such as dog, spiders, clowns or situations like heights, elevators or bridges. PTSD sufferers are seven times more likely than the general population to also have specific phobias.

OCD or Obsessive-compulsive disorder – This disorder is the least one to have been studies regarding the connection to PTSD. However, research shows that 47% of those that have PTSD could have OCD as well. OCD has characteristics such as intrusive thoughts, repetitive behaviors and thoughts along with excessive obsessions.

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