Medical Trauma/Post-intensive Care Syndrome (PICS)

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU), though life saving, can cause a number of negative outcomes including mental health issues. Once treatment is over many patients return home with symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some experience cognitive and physical limitations. Post-intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) can affect anyone who survives a critical illness. Patients with existing health problems, psychiatric illness, or cognitive impairment are more likely to have worsening of their symptoms after an ICU stay. PICS is most often seen among patients who were admitted to the ICU, though people who were treated outside of the ICU can acquire this syndrome. Patients who have experienced acute respiratory distress, delirium, severe infections or low blood pressure are also more susceptible to PICS.

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Signs and Symptoms:

  • Mental Health: anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, PTSD
  • Cognitive: difficulty thinking, remembering, or concentrating
  • Physical symptoms: difficulty with movement or exercise, shortness of breath, and/or weakness and pain


Treatment for PICS ranges from psychotherapy, cognitive remediation, psychopharmacology, physical therapy and occupational therapy can be effective in treating symptoms of this syndrome.

How can we help?

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) includes a range of evidence based treatment approaches to reduce depression, anxiety, sleep disruptions and PTSD.
  • Cognitive Remediation therapy is a targeted treatment to improve cognitive function. Treatment includes exercises, compensatory strategies, repetition, and problem solving to improve attention, memory, and executive functioning skill.  Additionally, it aims to increase awareness of cognitive deficits and restore optimal day-to-day functioning.