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Is post-traumatic stress disorder considered a traumatic brain injury?


The next time you’re strolling through Memorial Park, admiring the Fournet statue or driving by the DAV, try to think about all the veterans of the US who not only gave their lives for this country, but continue to suffer as a result. In addition to the veterans we see who have physical scars from their service—many continuously suffer from injuries we can’t see.

There are currently 10 million veterans in the US, over 20 percent of which suffer from some sort of traumatic brain injury. Worse still, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 5 million of them suffer post-traumatic stress disorders, meaning that some unfortunately suffer from both.


Traumatic brain injuries are generally classified as physical injuries such as bruises, swelling, or lacerations to the brain by an outside physical force. These physical injuries can then affect the brain by disrupting normal cognitive functions. The following are a few examples:

  • Lacerations and swelling can limit vital oxygen flow and cause cell deterioration.
  • Neural pathways can become cutoff limiting body, speech and memory function.
  • Damage to the front part of the brain can also alter moods and psychological states, as the frontal cortex controls feelings and emotions.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is classified as a psychological disorder caused by experiencing a life trauma—not necessarily a physical trauma to the head—that affects daily life by producing anxiety, fear and helplessness. The American Psychiatric Association furthers the definition by stating the 5 common attributes of PTSD that are used to diagnose the disorder:

  • Victim was exposed to a horrific life threatening event.
  • Experiences recurring nightmares, stressful memories or a sense of reliving the trauma.
  • Psychological avoidance including selective amnesia about the event, withdrawing from society, or emotional complacency.
  • Suffers from heightened nervous reactions such as irritability and difficulty sleeping and/or concentrating.

Both PTSD and TBIs have catastrophic effects on normal human functions. However, TBIs specifically affect how the brain works by disrupting normal function. PTSD does not physically affect the brain but rather one’s psychological state. Therefore, the anxiety and psychological effects of PTSD cannot truly be considered a traumatic brain injury. However, recent military studies are showing that although PTSD itself isn’t considered a traumatic brain injury, certain percussive brain injuries sustained during an event, can lead to PTSD.

How Brain Trauma Can Cause PTSD in Veterans

According to the Institute of Medicine, when soldiers are near explosions, the body absorbs a blast shock wave, sometimes causing nervous system or tissue damage that’s not apparent in the aftermath. Depending on the severity of the shock wave, the damage can ultimately cause brain trauma that could not only lead to PTSD but can also amplify existing PTSD symptoms.

As a result of recent wars and the use of IEDs, PTSD has become a debilitating pandemic amongst US veterans. It is extremely dangerous if not treated and has resulted in numerous tragic suicides of our nation’s heroes.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD don’t hesitate to get the PTSD psychological support you need.

Just because no one can see a physical injury or TBI doesn’t mean you’re not injured. Please share this article on Facebook or Twitter to help those who are suffering in silence, get the information they deserve.