Heightened feelings of stress and anxiety motivate many people to seek out massage therapy. And as far as stress conditions go, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is known to be among the most debilitating.

A new study looks at who develops PTSD and who does not.

It doesn’t take an act of war or being the victim of a crime to develop PTSD; in fact, some people are more greatly disposed to developing the stress disorder than are others.

Many people experience traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, being assaulted or witnessing violence, but only a small minority develop PTSD, said study author Naomi Breslau, a professor of epidemiology at Michigan State University.

“So the question is, ‘What’s the difference between those who develop PTSD and the majority who don’t,'” Breslau said. “This paper says people who are habitually anxious are more vulnerable. It’s an important risk factor.”

Breslau reached that conclusion by analyzing data from a decade-long study of about 1,000 randomly selected people in southeast Michigan, according to a university press release.

At the start of the study, participants answered 12 questions that gauged what psychiatric experts call neuroticism, a trait marked by chronic anxiety, depression and a tendency to overreact to everyday challenges and disappointments, the press release stated. They then had follow-up assessments at three, five and 10 years.

Half the participants experienced a traumatic event during the study period. Those who scored higher on the neuroticism scale as the study began were more likely to end up among the 5 percent who developed PTSD.

Breslau said the findings are particularly persuasive because the study assessed participants’ personalities before they had a traumatic experience, rather than measuring neuroticism among those who already had PTSD, according to the press release.

“There have been studies of neuroticism and PTSD, but they’ve all been retrospective,” she said. “We’re never sure of the order of things in a retrospective study. This study sets it in a clear time order.”

Related articles:

• Stress Shrinks the Brain

• Massage Boosts Mood, Immune Function and Relaxation

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