October 2, 2014
Science Daily/American Heart Association
About 30 percent of transient ischemic attack or 'mini-stroke' patients had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) results from a new study show. Those with PTSD had more depression, anxiety and reduced mental and physical quality of life. Patients overestimating their stroke risk and who don't cope with their mini-stroke well are at higher risk to develop PTSD.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA), like stroke, is caused by restricted blood supply to the brain. A TIA is temporary and often lasts less than five minutes, without causing permanent brain damage.
"We found one in three TIA patients develop PTSD," said Kathrin Utz, Ph.D., a study author and post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.
"PTSD, which is perhaps better known as a problem found in survivors of war zones and natural disasters, can develop when a person experiences a frightening event that poses a serious threat."
The study is the first to analyze whether a TIA and the knowledge of an increased risk for stroke can lead patients to develop psychiatric problems.
Patients' fear of having a stroke and poor coping behaviors after a TIA may be partially to blame for them developing PTSD.
"While their fear is partly justified, many patients may be overestimating their risk and increasing their chances of developing PTSD," Utz said.
"When experienced together, the symptoms from TIA and depression pose a significant psychological burden on the affected patient; therefore, it comes as no surprise that we also found TIA patients with PTSD have a measurably lower sense of quality of life."
Even a brief neurological disorder, which in itself doesn't lead to a chronic disability, can be just as traumatic as an event like a traffic accident or natural disaster, researchers said. The way a patient normally responds to stressful situations may help determine their risk of developing PTSD after a TIA.
"Patients who use certain types of coping strategies, such as denying the problem, blaming themselves for any difficulties or turning to drugs for comfort, face a greater risk of developing PTSD after TIA," Utz said.
"It is not yet entirely clear why some people develop PTSD following a TIA, but others do not. However, what we do know at this stage is that younger patients and patients who in general find it difficult to cope with stress are more likely to develop psychological problems following a TIA."