What Is the Connection between PTSD and Anxiety?

Debra Barnhart
Debra Barnhart

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental disorder suffered by people who have experienced a horrific, often life-threatening, event. Anxiety is a key component of PTSD, and some of the symptoms of PTSD and anxiety disorder overlap. Treatments for these disorders can be similar as well.

Anxiety is a major component of PTSD.
Anxiety is a major component of PTSD.

PTSD and anxiety often go hand in hand, and some symptoms of PTSD and anxiety disorder are commonly shared. These overlapping symptoms include irritability, jumpiness, muscle tension, sleep disturbances and increased startle response, which can all be symptoms of an anxiety disorder. People suffering from PTSD, however, experience additional symptoms, such as obsessive memories of the event, nightmares, and emotional numbness. Victims of PTSD may avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event and can become depressed, withdrawing from people and aspects of everyday life. One of the most distressing symptoms of PTSD is having flashbacks — a hallucinatory condition in which the person relives the event as if it were happening again.

Treatments for PTSD and anxiety can be similar. Psychotherapy is recommended, and anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed to treat the depression and anxiety that can result from a traumatic event and PTSD. Early diagnosis and treatment of PTSD can result in a more positive outcome.

Adults with PTSD frequently experience exaggerated psychological responses to anxiety inducing situations.
Adults with PTSD frequently experience exaggerated psychological responses to anxiety inducing situations.

PTSD is a serious mental condition that can occur in people who have experienced the threat of death, sexual assault or physical assault. Occurrences that might trigger PTSD and anxiety include being robbed, physically assaulted or raped as well as being involved in a car or plane crash. A news report indicated that a woman decided to sue an airline, claiming that an extremely turbulent flight caused her to develop PTSD. Developing PTSD can happen among those who serve in the military as well as those who work in law enforcement or emergency care. The death of a loved one, especially a violent death, can trigger PTSD in some people, although those who have directly experienced a physical threat or sexual assault are more likely to be victims of this disorder.

Naturally, these events could generate large amounts of anxiety in anyone, but not everyone responds by developing PTSD. Women are more likely than men to experience PTSD. People with a history of life trauma are more susceptible, possibly because experiencing a number of life traumas can wear down a person’s resilience. A pre-existing mental illness can increase the likelihood of PTSD in persons who have experienced a terrible event. Those who lack a supportive social network of friends and family are also more apt to suffer from this disorder.

Post-traumatic stress syndrome can become a prominent problem for military personnel.
Post-traumatic stress syndrome can become a prominent problem for military personnel.

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    • Anxiety is a major component of PTSD.
      Anxiety is a major component of PTSD.
    • Adults with PTSD frequently experience exaggerated psychological responses to anxiety inducing situations.
      Adults with PTSD frequently experience exaggerated psychological responses to anxiety inducing situations.
    • Post-traumatic stress syndrome can become a prominent problem for military personnel.
      Post-traumatic stress syndrome can become a prominent problem for military personnel.