PTSD Weighs More Heavily on Mental Health Than Co-Occurring Problems

Recent findings from a team of Brazilian researchers indicate that severe PTSD has a primary damaging impact on health-related quality of life, even in those individuals also affected by other significant mental health issues. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is known for its ability to produce profoundly negative changes in affected individuals’ daily quality of life. In a study published in April 2015 in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry, researchers from three Brazilian institutions assessed the impact of the disorder in people who also have co-occurring problems such as a depressive illness or an anxiety disorder. These researchers concluded that severe PTSD has a particularly damaging effect on health-related quality of life, even when the influence of other serious, co-existing mental health issues is taken into account.

Health-Related Quality of Life

Quality of life is generally defined as the sum total of the positive and negative influences on your ability to function in everyday life and experience a sense of well-being. In addition to your health, common influences include your financial resources and socioeconomic standing, as well as the strength of your personal support networks and your community. Health-related quality of life specifically refers to the influence of positive and negative factors on your overall state of mental and physical wellness. While these factors are important for people of all ages, they have even more significance for older adults, who inevitably face age-related health challenges. Doctors, researchers and public health officials can use a number of screening tools to gauge any given person’s health-related quality of life. Two commonly used tools are known as the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 12 (SF-12) and the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 (SF-36). SF-12 contains 12 questions designed to reveal such things as overall health, level of involvement in regular physical activity, typical energy level and degree of exposure to mental and physical health problems. SF-36 addresses health-related quality of life in much more substantial detail and provides an improved picture of eight general factors influencing an individual’s physical and mental well-being.


Diagnosable symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder appear in roughly 8 percent of men and 20 percent of women exposed to highly traumatic events or situations such as military combat, natural disasters, acts of terror, physical assaults, sexual assaults or childhood episodes of physical or sexual abuse. People affected by the disorder commonly experience four chief symptoms: a spike in negative moods or points of view, unwanted reliving of prior traumatic experiences while awake or while sleeping, a compelling urge to avoid being reminded of prior traumatic experiences and a jittery, over-aroused state related to an inability to shut down the body’s built-in “fight-or-flight” response. These symptoms can manifest in a number of ways and may have relatively mild, moderate or severe effects on a person’s state of well-being. The American Psychiatric Association places PTSD with a larger group of mental health conditions known as trauma- and stressor-related disorders.

PTSD and Health-Related Quality of Life

In the study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry, researchers from Brazil’s Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Federal Fluminense University and National School of Public Health used a small-scale project involving 65 adults to measure the impact of PTSD on health-related quality of life. The researchers used the same project to compare the impact of PTSD to the impact of other simultaneously occurring mental health problems. Specific co-existing problems under consideration included major depression and other forms of depressive illness, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), psychosis and anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and specific phobia. For all of the study participants, the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 was used to gauge health-related quality of life. The researchers concluded that PTSD severity is the main determinant of all eight aspects of health-related quality of life measured by the SF-36, even when affected individuals have co-occurring problems with depressive illness, psychosis, OCD or an anxiety disorder. They also concluded that the most profound health-related impact of severe PTSD is loss of the ability to function socially. In addition, the researchers concluded that co-occurring depression is the single greatest secondary contributor to a reduction in health-related quality of life in people severely affected by PTSD. Based on their findings, the study’s authors believe that improved health-related quality of life should be a major goal of PTSD treatment, as well as a major indicator of actual treatment success. Read more about how The Ranch – Pennsylvania Landing treats co-occurring disorders or call [phone] today. Our specialists are ready to help.

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