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Int Rev Psychiatry. 2013 Feb;25(1):86-99. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2012.736367.

Review of somatic symptoms in post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with both (1) 'ill-defined' or 'medically unexplained' somatic syndromes, e.g. unexplained dizziness, tinnitus and blurry vision, and syndromes that can be classified as somatoform disorders (DSM-IV-TR); and (2) a range of medical conditions, with a preponderance of cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, neurological, and gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, chronic pain, sleep disorders and other immune-mediated disorders in various studies. Frequently reported medical co-morbidities with PTSD across various studies include cardiovascular disease, especially hypertension, and immune-mediated disorders. PTSD is associated with limbic instability and alterations in both the hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal and sympatho-adrenal medullary axes, which affect neuroendocrine and immune functions, have central nervous system effects resulting in pseudo-neurological symptoms and disorders of sleep-wake regulation, and result in autonomic nervous system dysregulation. Hypervigilance, a central feature of PTSD, can lead to 'local sleep' or regional arousal states, when the patient is partially asleep and partially awake, and manifests as complex motor and/or verbal behaviours in a partially conscious state. The few studies of the effects of standard PTSD treatments (medications, CBT) on PTSD-associated somatic syndromes report a reduction in the severity of ill-defined and autonomically mediated somatic symptoms, self-reported physical health problems, and some chronic pain syndromes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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