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People Who Worry More at Higher Risk of PTSD

Update Date: Dec 18, 2012 05:48 AM EST

While many of us can simply relax and handle situations one at a time with hassles and worries, many others know exactly what it feels like when one just can't stop worrying about things in life. A lot of people, of course not voluntarily, but by nature, simply can't stop worrying constantly, and a new study suggests that such people are at an increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, when compared to people who are more relaxed.

The research by scientists from Michigan State University suggests that PTSD, which is usually suffered by a minority of people after the death of a loved one, witnessing violence, or being assaulted etc., could happen more likely to an individual who worries a lot generally.

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

Before concluding the study, Breslau analyzed data from a decade-long study of about 1,000 randomly selected people in southeast Michigan, according to a report in Medical Xpress.

At the beginning of the study, the participants were asked to answer a questionnaire containing 12 questions pertaining to their reactions to day-to-day challenges and disappointments. This was aimed at gauging their neuroticism: a trait marked by chronic anxiety, depression and a tendency to overreact to everyday situations, the reports said.

The researchers then followed up with the participants after three, five and 10 years. Half of the study participants had experienced a traumatic event during this period. It was found that people who scored more on neuroticism scale (worried more often) were more likely to have ended up among the 5 percent who developed PTSD.

According to Breslau, the study findings are more convincing because in this study, the neuroticism of the participants was assessed after they experienced a traumatic event and not after they 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 retrospective study. This study sets it in a clear time order."

While there is nothing much that can be done to prevent PTSD, Breslau said that the findings of the current study may be helpful to doctors in detecting patients with the highest risk and responding 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."

The study was published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

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