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Relationship between PTSD and Type 2 Diabetes

The presence of posttraumatic stress disorder is clearly associated with the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. The cause is suspected to be an activation of the hormonal stress axis through permanent stress symptoms.

People who suffer posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a significant risk of developing type 2 diabetes. PTSD is an adjustment disorder after
experiencing a trauma and leads to massive stress symptoms. An association between stress due to mental illness and diabetes has been discussed for a long time. Now for the first time, Karoline Lukaschek of the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München and Johannes Kruse of the Clinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy of the University Hospital Giessen/Marburg and colleagues have demonstrated a clear association between the two diseases.

The scientists analyzed the data of the population-based cohort study and administered a glucose tolerance test. In the cohort, a total of 50 people with PTSD were identified. 498 KORA participants had manifest type 2 diabetes, and additionally 333 individuals showed signs of a pre-diabetic metabolic state, a pre-form of diabetes. The evaluation of the data revealed a significant association of PTSD with type 2 diabetes; however, a higher incidence of pre-diabetes related to psychological stress was not observed. The scientists assume that the chronic stress burden of PTSD patients leads to adjustments in the hormonal reaction patterns. This can have a pathological impact on the metabolism and the utilization of glucose.

Elucidating the association between psychological factors and metabolic disorders will therefore be an important task of diabetes research in the future. According to the scientists, the treatment of metabolic risk factors should already be part of the therapy for patients with PTSD and other mental illnesses.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness which is preceded by stressful events that are exceptionally threatening or catastrophic (trauma). The event must not necessarily relate to one’s own person but can also be experienced with others – for example as witness to an accident or an act of violence.