A mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack, might increase a persons risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, according to new research.
TIA, like stroke, is caused by restricted blood supply to the brain; however, TIA is temporary and often lasts less than five minutes, without causing permanent brain damage.
We found one in three TIA patients develop PTSD, Kathrin Utz, PhD, a study author and post-doctoral researcher in the department of neurology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, said in a news release. 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.
For the study, British and German researchers examined whether a TIA and the knowledge of an increased risk for stroke can lead patients to develop psychiatric problems. The findings were published Oct. 2 in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
After examining data from 108 TIA patients with no previous history of stroke and reviewing participants answers to a series of questionnaires that evaluated their mental state, the investigators found the following results:
About 30% of patients with TIA disclosed symptoms of PTSD.
About 14% of all TIA patients showed significantly reduced mental quality of life and 6.5% had reduced physical quality of life.
Those with PTSD showed higher signs of depression, anxiety and reduced quality of life.
Patients fear of having a stroke and poor coping behaviors after a TIA may be partially to blame for them developing PTSD, according to the release.
While their fear is partly justified, many patients may be overestimating their risk and increasing their chances of developing PTSD, Utz said in the release. 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 doesnt lead to a chronic disability, can be just as traumatic as an event such as a traffic accident or natural disaster, researchers said in the study. The way a patient normally responds to stressful situations might help determine the persons 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 in the release. 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.
Utz said she suggests providing patients better risk counseling and more positive adaptive strategies to cope with TIA.
Study abstract: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/10/01/STROKEAHA.113.004459.abstract