Relaxing. Calming. Stress-relieving. Massage therapy is all of these and, therefore, an effective therapy for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A new study is the first to examine which problems associated with PTSD actually correspond to lower quality of life, as indicated by the patient’s willingness to die sooner or to risk life-threatening treatment to relieve his or her symptoms.

PTSD is more costly than any other anxiety disorder, according to a press release from the University of Southern California, where this study’s researchers hail from.

The researchers interviewed 184 persons seeking treatment for PTSD at two treatment sites in different regions of the United States. The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

“As many as 300,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan currently have PTSD, with costs for their care estimated at $4 to $6.2 billion over the next two years,” the press release noted. “PTSD sufferers would give up an average of 13 years of life to be without the disorder, but may not realize that some symptoms don’t affect happiness.”

The researchers found that, of four major symptoms associated with PTSD, not all were associated with a patient’s immediate quality of life, even though those who sought treatment for PTSD expressed significant overall declines in mental health.

Distressing recollections of a traumatic event and avoidance of certain activities and thoughts—both commonly conceived of as dysfunctional behaviors—had little correlation to a patient’s reported sense of well-being, according to the study.

However, symptoms tied to heightened arousal, such as trouble sleeping, irritability and vigilance, were associated with lower quality of life among PTSD patients. Anxiety and depression were also associated with lower quality of life.

The study was published March 1 in the journal Psychiatric Services.

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