Chronic worriers at higher risk for PTSD

December 17, 2012

People who worry constantly are at greater risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to new Michigan State University research published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Many people experience such as the death of a loved one, being assaulted or witnessing violence, but only a small minority develop PTSD, said study author Naomi Breslau, a professor of epidemiology at MSU.

"So the question is, 'What's the difference between those who develop PTSD and the majority who don't,'" Breslau said. "This paper says people who are habitually anxious are more vulnerable. It's an important risk factor."

Breslau reached that conclusion by analyzing data from a decade-long study of about 1,000 randomly selected people in southeast Michigan.

At the start of the study, participants answered 12 questions that gauged what psychiatric experts call neuroticism, a trait marked by , depression and a tendency to overreact to everyday challenges and disappointments. They then had follow-up assessments at three, five and 10 years.

Half the participants experienced a traumatic event during the study period. Those who scored higher on the neuroticism scale as the study began were more likely to end up among the 5 percent who developed PTSD.

Breslau said the findings are particularly persuasive because the study assessed participants' personalities before they had a , rather than measuring neuroticism among those who already had PTSD.

"There have been studies of neuroticism and PTSD, but they've all been retrospective," she said. "We're never sure of the order of things in a . This study sets it in a clear time order."

Breslau said there isn't much that can be done to prevent PTSD, but her findings may help doctors recognize people at the highest risk and respond accordingly when they experience trauma.

"We need to be concerned about people with previous psychiatric disorders if there's some kind of catastrophe," she said. "The main thing is that doctors have to look after their patients, ask them questions and get to know them."

Explore further: Researchers Unable to Agree on Predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders

Related Stories

Women in their 50s more prone to PTSD than men

July 20, 2010

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates peak in women later than they do in men. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Annals of General Psychiatry found that men are most vulnerable to PTSD between ...

PTSD linked to increase risk in heart disease

June 1, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- New research by Dr. Ramin Ebrahimi and his team from the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center was published in The American Journal of Cardiology and shows a link between post-traumatic ...

Recommended for you

Sleep makes relearning faster and longer-lasting

August 22, 2016

Getting some sleep in between study sessions may make it easier to recall what you studied and relearn what you've forgotten, even 6 months later, according to new findings from Psychological Science, a journal of the Association ...

Psychosis associated with low levels of physical activity

August 25, 2016

A large international study of more than 200,000 people in nearly 50 countries has revealed that people with psychosis engage in low levels of physical activity, and men with psychosis are over two times more likely to miss ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.