The Impact of the Treatment of PTSD on Comorbid Insomnia and Pain
Stacey Young-McCaughan, RN, PhD (COL, US Army, Ret.)
Evaluate the interrelation of comorbid insomnia, pain and PTSD as seen in participants of other STRONG STAR randomized clinical trials focused on the treatment of combat-related PTSD. Perform an in-depth analysis to determine if the successful treatment of PTSD in turn reduces comorbid insomnia and pain, and whether comorbid insomnia and/or pain have a negative effect on participants’ response to PTSD therapy, providing insight to help providers tailor patients’ treatment to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Insomnia and pain are two of the symptoms most commonly reported by military personnel who have returned from deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. They also are common comorbidities of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Doctors have numerous issues to consider when treating each problem individually, but when physical and psychological disorders such as these present themselves as a group, diagnosis and treatment become even more complicated as one condition aggravates another.
For example, the nightmares of PTSD and the pain of a physical trauma can keep one from sleeping; a lack of sleep can slow down the body’s physical and mental healing process; and strong medications used to treat severe pain and even sleeping pills can further alter one’s mental state. Many of these medications also carry the risk of causing drug dependence, which can cause even further complications in treating PTSD. In these situations, it can quickly become difficult for health care professionals to discern what ailment – or therapy – is causing a particular problem and how best to tailor their patients’ treatment.
STRONG STAR Consortium Coordinator COL Stacey Young-McCaughan, PhD, RN (U.S. Army, Retired), is trying to provide valuable insight on the interrelation of PTSD comorbidities to help unravel this tangled web and guide improved treatment.
New study provides in-depth analysis, could help health care providers tailor therapy
In a new exploratory study for STRONG STAR, Dr. Young-McCaughan will extend preliminary results from a study she previously conducted as she evaluates the interrelation of comorbid insomnia, pain and PTSD as seen in participants of other STRONG STAR randomized clinical trials. She will do an in-depth analysis to determine if the successful treatment of PTSD will in turn reduce comorbid insomnia and pain, or whether additional therapies are needed to treat these conditions. Conversely, she will analyze whether comorbid insomnia and pain have a negative effect on participants’ response to PTSD therapy. This would potentially indicate that these comorbidities need to be targeted specifically as part of a comprehensive plan to treat PTSD effectively.
Additional insights gained from this investigation could improve the ability of mental health professionals to tailor patients’ treatment to achieve the best possible outcomes.