• Stroke and PTSD: The 25% Factor



    Yesterday I met a friend for coffee, although we didn’t know each other well.

    We met to discuss our strokes–hers hemorrhagic and mine a brain stem stroke. Both of our strokes struck suddenly last year.

    By the time we left the coffee shop after a 90 minute conversation, we knew one another extremely well.

    It’s natural to bond with someone who’s experienced a similar near-death event.

    And that’s what many medical events are: life-threatening. And more often than we think, medical trauma and procedures can result in PTSD.

    According to Columbia University Medical Center, one in four people who survive a stroke will suffer from PTSD the first year (link).

    That means that each year, nearly 300,000 stroke and TIA (transient ischemic attack) survivors develop PTSD as a result of the terrifying onset of their health scare.

    I know. I experienced it as a blood vessel bled into my brain stem and produced numbness, tingling, and other symptoms.

    So did my friend Ginger, when a blood vessel in her brain violently hemorrhaged.

    According to the article, “PTSD is not just a disorder of combat veterans and sexual assault survivors, but strongly affects survivors of stroke and other potentially traumatic acute cardiovascular events as well,” said Ian M. Kronish, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine (Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health) and the study’s senior author. “Surviving a life-threatening health scare can have a debilitating psychological impact, and health care providers should make it a priority to screen for symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD among these patient populations.”

    Several months after my stroke and brain surgery, I consulted with my general practitioner about adding an anti-depressant to my medications. Why?

    • I found myself crying more frequently and sometimes uncontrollably.
    • I sometimes found myself drifting off into space to avoid the real world.
    • I felt inexplicably sad.

    My doctor agreed that I could benefit from an anti-depressant, and he was right. My symptoms have greatly improved.

    Dr. Kronish went on to state: “PTSD and other psychological disorders in stroke and TIA patients appear to be an under-recognized and under-treated problem.”

    Fortunately, stroke patients can take positive steps.

    1. Seek out PTSD treatment if symptoms don’t abate.

    2. Help raise awareness among physicians and the general population. (Feel free to use this blog or the link information.)

    3. Ask family members for support and understanding.

    4. Build a social support system. Seek out community resources.

    According to Dr. Edmondson, “The next step is further research to assess whether mental health treatment can reduce stroke- and TIA-induced PTSD symptoms and help these patients regain a feeling of normalcy and calm as soon as possible after their health scare.”

    Do you know someone who’s suffered a stroke? Are they showing signs of PTSD: anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, obsessive-compulsive behavior, avoidance, depression, or other symptoms? If so, encourage them to see a mental health professional.

2 Responsesso far.

  1. Karen says:

    Dear Shelley,
    I am Gingers friend….she brought your book, ‘Love Letters from the Edge’ along to a girls retreat last week that we had, along with a mutual friend who also had a stroke, a Watershed Cerebellum stroke back in November.

    Your book ‘talks’ to each of us in a manner that is unbelievable! You are an amazing author, as well as an amazing human being.

    I just want to thank you for bringing out the truth with the PTSD aspect of this trauma. I recommend that everyone read this book. It is an inspiration…thought provoking and inspiring.

    Thank You


    • admin says:

      Thank you, Karen. I’m so glad that Love Letters from the Edge” is touching your heart. Wanda’s desire and mine was that those who have suffered trauma feel known and loved by God and that they better understand trauma and PTSD. So many people are suffering without knowledge of the reason why and without hope. Blessings to you and thank you so much for writing. I hope we have the opportunity to meet some day.

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