The Relationship Between PTSD and Other Anxiety Disorders

There's a clear relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health disorders, such as substance use and anxiety or mood disorders. Get the facts about the link between PTSD, itself an anxiety disorder, and everything from acute stress disorder to panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

PTSD and Other Anxiety Disorders

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Besides PTSD, mental health disorders that are classified as anxiety disorders are acute stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

People with PTSD have been found to be at greater risk of having all of these disorders. This overview provides the rates of these anxiety disorders among people with PTSD.

PTSD and Panic Disorder

It is quite common for people with PTSD to experience panic attacks given that people with PTSD are at greater risk of developing panic disorder. In fact, around 7 percent of men and 13 percent of women with PTSD also have panic disorder—a rate much higher than what is found in the general population.

Learn more about what panic disorder is as well as why PTSD and panic disorder may commonly co-occur.

PTSD and Risk for Social Anxiety Disorder

The symptoms of PTSD may make a person feel different, as though they can't relate or connect with others. In addition, many people with PTSD feel high levels of depression, shame, guilt, and self-blame.

Therefore, it is not surprising that PTSD and social anxiety disorder frequently co-occur. Fortunately, there are very effective treatments available for both PTSD and social anxiety disorder. Learn more about the diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, its connection with PTSD and how one can get help for both conditions.

PTSD and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Studies have found that anywhere between 4 percent and 22 percent of people with PTSD also have a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In addition, people with OCD also show a high likelihood of having experienced traumatic events.

For example, one study found that 54 percent of people with a diagnosis of OCD report having experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes. Although these rates are high, they are not entirely surprising.

PTSD may make a person's life feel chaotic and out-of-control. The behaviors associated with OCD may initially help make a person feel more in control, safe and reduce anxiety. However, these strategies ultimately backfire, contributing to more anxiety and distress.

Acute Stress Disorder and Risk for Developing PTSD

Acute stress disorder and PTSD often go hand-in-hand. This is because a diagnosis of PTSD can only be given one month after the experience of a traumatic event. Yet, it is likely that people may be experiencing PTSD-like symptoms soon after a traumatic event.

Acute stress disorder describes the experience of PTSD-like symptoms immediately following a traumatic event.

People diagnosed with acute stress disorder have been found to be at greater risk for eventually developing PTSD.

Learn more about the symptoms of acute stress disorder and its connection with PTSD with this overview.

By Matthew Tull, PhD
Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder.