25% of ICU survivors suffer PTSD

25% of ICU survivors suffer PTSD

Figures reveal that 25% of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) survivors suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As a result of advancements in critical care medicine, the chances of survival from ICU have increased, potentially bringing with it; however, an array of associated longer-term problems. Patients are admitted into intensive care units (ICU) when they need life-saving medical treatment. Indeed, a recent meta-analysis found self-reported PTSD symptoms in 24% of ICU patients between one and six months after discharge, and 22% at seven months (Parker et al., 2015).

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following a stressful life event or catastrophic situation which has involved fear, helplessness or horror. It is common to experience PTSD-like symptoms if you have experienced or witnessed an event(s) that included actual or threatened death, serious injury or a physical threat to yourself or others. 

People living with PTSD (and complex PTSD) often suffer for months or years before finding treatment. Other disorders may be associated with PTSD, including depression, drug or alcohol problems, social anxiety, panic and generalised anxiety symptoms.

A study was carried out in Morriston Hospital, South Wales, where a total of 198 patients participated, who had all attended the intensive care unit. Of these, 54 (27%) showed signs of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Across several variables, the significant predictors of PTSD were younger age; lower Apache II* score, pre-illness psychopathology and delirium during the ICU stay.

Besides being critically unwell and fearing they may die, patients are exposed to the ICU environment with constant noise, light, frequent medical checks, pain, sleep disruption, partial consciousness and high levels of sedating medications. They are often unable to communicate or to move. These factors place patients at risk of an acutely confused state of mind, that can be accompanied by hallucinations and delusions. The patient’s poor physiological state and the ICU environment also affect memory processing, further raising the risk of PTSD development.

There is a growing awareness amongst critical care practitioners that the impact of intensive care medicine extends beyond the patient to include the psychological effect on close family members. So especially in the current situation where COVID-19 is concerned, the mental health implications are likely to spread beyond a surviving ICU patient. Worried parents, spouses, children and so on are likely to be affected.

So, how can Cognitive Behavioural Therapy help ICU survivors?

CBT is the treatment of choice for PTSD, and trauma-focused CBT is recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) for treatment of those with severe symptoms. We have outstanding recovery rates in the treatment of PTSD.

NICE also identifies that EMDR has an emerging and increasing evidence base in the treatment of PTSD.

Why choose Onebright for PTSD recovery?

  • We are BABCP accredited – The highest gold standard that a CBT psychotherapist can achieve.
  • We have an 87% recovery rate – This exceeds industry standards which on average report a 52% recovery rate.
  • Rapid service – You don’t have to worry about battling long waiting lists to speak to someone and start feeling better. You can begin the online or remote therapy program within days.

Which condition do you require support with?

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