Is it Possible to Have Anxiety and PTSD?


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting around 40 million adults-almost 1 in 5 people. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that almost 300 million people, across the globe, have an anxiety disorder.

Approximately 1 in 6 individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms will suffer from anxiety according to some research. Although we do not know exactly why they coexist, worrying is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of PTSD.

The following are possible reasons individuals with PTSD can also experience significant symptoms of anxious distress: Worry can become amplified in a hyper-aroused emotional state, to the point where it becomes difficult to overcome. Many people may turn to their worrying as a way to cope with stressful situations. People can use worry as a distraction to keep their concerns and worries hidden from others. Another potential reason is that both conditions are induced by similar experiences. A prior event is not just an underlying cause of PTSD symptoms, but it is also a trigger for anxious distress. People with anxiety have a long-standing pattern of anxiety, which often occurs in a variety of situations and under various circumstance. No two people are the same; no two people’s experiences are the same; no two people’s experience of anxiety is the same. Anxiety, like all mental health difficulties, exists on a spectrum that varies due to a variety of factors.

People with PTSD symptoms often find themselves experiencing extreme anxiety levels and other signs while responding to a debilitating life event. PTSD symptoms are usually limited to a single event, though they can be generalized with other conditions. Anxiety and PTSD share many similarities. For example, anxiety symptoms include significant anxiety and worries, which are also common when someone has PTSD symptoms. With PTSD, panic attacks can be very common and a frequent co-occurring diagnosis of Panic Disorder can be warranted. Anxiety disorders include constant anxious thoughts about future attacks and repeated unexpected panic attacks.

A person can have both anxiety and PTSD, but while a traumatic event is the innate cause of PTSD, it can also aggravate anxiety, which is why professional diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment.


References and Resources:

Kimbrel NA, Calhoun PS, Elbogen EB, et al. The factor structure of psychiatric comorbidity among Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans and its relationship to violence, incarceration, suicide attempts, and suicidality. Psychiatry Res 2014;220:397–403.

Terhakopian A, Sinaii N, Engel CC, et al. Estimating population prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder: an example using the PTSD checklist. J Trauma Stress 2008;21:290–300.

Price M, Legrand AC, Brier ZMF, Hébert-dufresne L. The symptoms at the center: Examining the comorbidity of posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression with network analysisJ Psychiatr Res. 2019;109:52-58. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2018.11.016

Locke AB, Kirst N, Schultz C. Diagnosis and management of generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adultsAm Fam Physician. 2015;91(9):617-624.

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