Chronic Illness & Trauma: Considerations for Diagnosing PTSD

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Oyenike Balogun-Mwangi

Section Editor:

Shavonne Moore-Lobban

SICKLE CELL DISEASE (SCD) is a congenital condition and blood disorder that, for many, is a lifelong struggle through illness, related stress, and subsequent trauma. Worldwide, 300,000 people are born with SCD each year and over 100,000 of those are Americans (Osunkwo et al., 2022). Although affecting individuals across the globe, it primarily impacts people of color, and specifically individuals with ancestry from Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Mediterranean countries, South America, the Caribbean, and Central America (Osunkwo et al., 2022). The majority of babies born with the disease in low-income environments die before their fifth birthdays because of poor access to prompt and effective treatment (Makani et al., 2011). SCD, like many other chronic illnesses, takes an incredible toll on individuals living with it.

It is well understood that SCD is a disease that is devastating to the bodies of those affected. While the physical signs and symptoms vary from person to person, the disease manifests in the body in the form of anemia, swelling of joints, frequent infections, and vision problems (Mayo Clinic, 2022). By far, the most notable marker of SCD is periodic episodes of extreme pain. In fact, moments of serious illness and pain are often described as a sickle cell crisis. As is the case with many major life stressors and trauma, the physical (e.g., visible) symptoms are most apparent but additional symptoms are often occurring simultaneously. In exploring the experience of individuals with SCD, Adawi and colleagues (2021) found that participants reported marked alterations across a number of spheres in their lives, including, emotional, social, and spiritual challenges. For example, participants in that study reported acute experiences of emotional disturbance during periods of their physical pain. To continue reading click here.