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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 46 (2004) 9, 611 - 617

Review article

Posttraumatic stress disorder following physical illnesses or their treatment.

W.F. Scholte, M. Olff, B.P.R. Gersons

background In the last few years there has been increasing support for the hypothesis that posttraumatic stress disorder commonly occurs as a result of physical illnesses or their treatment.
aim To investigate the evidence for the assumption that posttraumatic stress disorder often results from psychical illnesses or their treatment, which physical illnesses or their respective treatments resulted in the development of posttraumatic stress disorder, and the prevalence of this kind of posttraumatic stress disorder.
method We identified and studied the relevant literature by searching Medline (from 1960 to August 2003) and embase (1980 to August 2003). We based our search on the key words 'posttraumatic stress disorder' combined with 'treatment', 'neoplasms', 'prevalence', infection, 'transplantation', 'hiv' and 'pregnancy'. We also reviewed some additional publications included in the bibliographic references of the articles we located.
results Of the articles we studied, 19 satisfied our selection criteria. These studies described the traumatic effects of thirteen different physical illnesses and their treatment. Most of the studies concerned cancer patients. Posttraumatic stress disorder following still birth was the topic that was investigated the most methodically. Here the prevalence was found to be 20%.
conclusion Physical illnesses and their treatment increase a person's chance of developing posttraumatic stress disorder. Early recognition and treatment of this posttraumatic stress disorder can favourably influence the course of the physical illness and improve the patient's quality of life.

keywords physical illness, posttraumatic stress disorder, prevalence, treatment