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Mini-Stroke Linked to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Update Date: Oct 02, 2014 04:15 PM EDT

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is often referred to as a mini-stroke, is characterized by stroke symptoms that typically last for about five minutes. Generally, TIAs do not lead to permanent brain damage. However, according to a new study, people who suffered from a TIA are at risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"We found one in three TIA patients develop PTSD," said Kathrin Utz, Ph.D., a study author and post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. "PTSD, which is perhaps better known as a problem found in survivors of war zones and natural disasters, can develop when a person experiences a frightening event that poses a serious threat."

For this study, the research team examined 108 TIA patients who had no history of a stroke. The patients answered questions that measured their mental health. The team found that around 30 percent of the patients experienced symptoms of PTSD. This group of patients exhibited more depressive symptoms, anxiety and a greater overall reduction in life quality. 14 percent of all of the patients had signs of reduced mental quality of life and about half of them had reduced physical quality of life. The researchers believe TIA patients who feared suffering from a stroke in the future in combination with poor coping skills increased their own PTSD risk. Poor coping skills included denying the health incident, placing blame on oneself and using drug for comfort.

"While their fear is partly justified, many patients may be overestimating their risk and increasing their chances of developing PTSD," Utz said in the press release. "When experienced together, the symptoms from TIA and depression pose a significant psychological burden on the affected patient; therefore, it comes as no surprise that we also found TIA patients with PTSD have a measurably lower sense of quality of life."

The study was published in the American heart Association journal, Stroke.

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