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Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2013;25(3):279-82. doi: 10.1515/ijamh-2013-0063.

The underexamined association between posttraumatic stress disorder, medical illness and suicidal behavior.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is concerning not only because of the severity and chronicity of its symptoms - including distressing nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety attacks and maladaptive patterns of avoidant and nearly paranoid behavior - but also because of the wide spectrum of clinical and social impairments it is tightly associated with. The most striking example of clinical morbidity associated with PTSD is the well-known increase in the risk of suicidal behavior. Given that PTSD and medical illnesses increase the likelihood of suicide separately and independently, it is reasonable to suggest that the risk of suicidal behavior differs between patients suffering from PTSD comorbid with medical illnesses and patients having either condition alone. The available data point toward a novel clinical notion, an altered risk of suicidal behavior in patients suffering from comorbid PTSD and medical illnesses. This area of overlap between medicine and psychiatry is still in its infancy, with many unanswered questions about the rate, patterns and psychobiological mechanisms of suicidal behavior in this patient population. The positive association between PTSD, medical illness and suicidal behavior that appears to exist in the adult population, most likely affects the pediatric population as well. Closer investigation into the significance of the association between chronic medical illnesses, PTSD and suicidality in children, adolescents and adults is necessary.

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