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Oct 06, 2014 06:21 AM EDT

Mini Strokes Increase PTSD Risk, Study

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Mini strokes heighten post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) risk, according to a new study by the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke is caused by limited blood supply to the brain. TIA is temporary and often persists less than five minutes without triggering permanent brain damage.

"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," Kathrin Utz, a study author and post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Neurology, said in a press release.

For the study, researchers examined data of 108 TIA patients with no prior history of stroke and reviewed their answers to a series of questions that assessed their mental state.

Researchers found that about 30 percent of patients with TIA reported PTSD symptoms. About 14 percent of TIA patients were associated with reduced mental quality of life and 6.5 percent had reduced physical quality of life. Patients suffering from PTSD displayed higher signs of depression, anxiety and reduced quality of life.

Fear of suffering from a stroke and poor coping behaviors post TIA are partly to blame for PTSD occurrence. The symptoms from TIA and depression from PTSD present a significant psychological burden on the affected patient. TIA patients with PTSD have a lower quality of life.

"While their fear is partly justified, many patients may be overestimating their risk and increasing their chances of developing PTSD," Utz said.

Researchers said that by identifying the way a patient handles a stressful situation, they can help determine PTSD risk post TIA. Younger patients and others who face difficulty in managing with stress are more likely to develop psychological problems post TIA.

"Patients who use certain types of coping strategies, such as denying the problem, blaming themselves for any difficulties or turning to drugs for comfort, face a greater risk of developing PTSD after TIA," Utz said.

Researchers recommend patient counseling and more positive adaptive strategies to survive TIA.

The finding is published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

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