More patients in the intensive care unit are surviving their critical illnesses because of advances in medical care. This change in survival has led to an increased awareness of the emotional consequences of being critically ill. Posttraumatic stress disorder has been identified in approximately 9% to 27% of critically ill patients compared with 7% of the general US population. Risk factors such as treatment with mechanical ventilation, sedation, delusional memories, and agitation are associated with development of posttraumatic stress disorder in patients in the intensive care unit. Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder are more likely to experience negative physical and psychiatric health outcomes and a lower quality of life than are patients without the disorder. Early identification and treatment of patients experiencing these signs and symptoms may reduce these physical and psychological comorbid conditions. Through careful monitoring of medications, early mobilization, sleep promotion, and pain management, nurses may be able to reduce signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.

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