Improvement of PTSD symptoms linked to reduced type 2 diabetes risk


Traumatic experiences may affect a person in different ways. In some, these traumatic events may not pose a negative impact, but for others, they develop a mental health condition often triggered by a terrifying event – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is previously known that there’s a link between PTSD and type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition wherein the blood sugar levels are increased due to lack of insulin produced by the pancreas. Studies have found that people with PTSD are more likely to have diabetes, stemming from unhealthy behaviors, including smoking, poor eating habits, and substance use.

PTSD is a grave and debilitating mental condition wherein symptoms of intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations in cognition and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity, are manifested by the patients. It affects up to 12 percent of civilians and about 30 percent of the veteran population.

Aside from diabetes, people with PTSD are also at higher risks of other health issues. Hence, improvement of the symptoms will be related to improved health, reducing bouts of depression, sleep problems, blood pressure changes, and emotional well-being.

Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., is a professor of family and community medicine at Saint Louis University. Photo by Ellen Hutti.
Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., is a professor of family and community medicine at Saint Louis University. Photo by Ellen Hutti.

Reduced type 2 diabetes

The study, which was published in the JAMA Psychiatry, reveals that PTSD treatment, which can reduce symptoms is linked to 49-percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

"Some long-term chronic health conditions associated with PTSD may be less likely to occur among patients who experience clinically meaningful symptom reduction either through treatment or spontaneous improvement," Dr. Jeffrey Scherrer, a professor in Family and Community Medicine, said.

The researchers wanted to examine if clinically meaningful PTSD symptom reduction is linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. To land to their findings, the tea, examined data from the Veterans Health Affairs from nearly 6,000 patients who received treatment for PTSD from 2008 to 2012. After that, the team followed up with the participants in 2015.

From there, they applied eligibility criteria and had 1,598 patients with PTSD who had no diabetes risk were examined. They found improvement in PTSD was partnered with a decrease in depression.

Moreover, the team found that a reduction in PTSD symptoms and depressive symptoms lead to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It is important for patients with both PTSD and depression to resolve the symptoms through proper treatment to reduce type 2 diabetes risk.

Spotting PTSD

PTSD usually occurs after a terrifying or traumatic event. The patient will manifest many symptoms. It is important for healthcare providers to determine and identify these symptoms, so proper and immediate treatment is initiated.

There are many symptoms of PTSD, but these are subdivided into four types. For intrusive memories, the symptoms include recurrent or unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event, and severe emotional distress if someone or something reminds the patient of the event.

The patient may also show avoidance, wherein he or she may avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event. In some cases, the patients with PTSD may avoid activities, people, or places that can remind them of the event.

Patients may also have negative changes in mood and cognitive ability. The patient might manifest having negative thoughts about oneself, others, and the world, feelings of hopelessness, and memory problems. They may also show no interest in activities they enjoyed in the past. All of which point to depression.

There are also noted changes in physical and emotional reactions. The patient may now become easily frightened and startled, manifest self-destructive behavior like drinking alcohol or driving too fast, experience concentration problems, and become irritable.

Treating PTSD

The study shows that proper and prompt treatment of PTSD could prevent having complications, including type 2 diabetes. The primary treatment is psychotherapy, a technique where the patient learns skills to address the symptoms, helps the patient think better about oneself and treating other co-occurring conditions such as substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. In some patients, they may be given certain medications.

Journal reference:

Jeffrey F. Scherrer, Joanne Salas, Sonya B. Norman, Paula P. Schnurr, Kathleen M. Chard, Peter Tuerk, F. David Schneider, Carissa van den Berk-Clark, Beth E. Cohen, Matthew J. Friedman, Patrick J. Lustman. (2019). Association Between Clinically Meaningful Posttraumatic. JAMA Psychiatry.

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