Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: What is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD?
PTSD is a real illness.
You can get PTSD after living through or seeing a dangerous event, such as war, a hurricane, or bad accident.
PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over.
It affects your life and the people around you. If you have PTSD, you can get treatment and feel better.
Who gets PTSD?
PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. Children get PTSD too.
You don’t have to be physically hurt to get PTSD.
You can get it after you see other people get hurt, such as a friend or family member. What causes PTSD?
Living through or seeing something that’s upsetting and dangerous can cause PTSD. This can include: Being a victim of or seeing violence The death or serious illness of a loved one War or combat Car accidents and plane crashes Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting. There are many other things that can cause PTSD. Talk to your doctor if you are troubled by something that happened to you or someone you care about.
The research showing how exposure to extreme stress affects brain function is making important contributions to understanding the nature of traumatic stress. This includes the notion that traumatized individuals are vulnerable to react to sensory information with subcortically initiated responses that are irrelevant, and often harmful, in the present. Reminders of traumatic experiences activate brain regions that support intense emotions, and decrease activation in the central nervous system (CNS) regions involved in (a) the integration of sensory input with motor output, (b) the modulation of physiological arousal, and (c) the capacity to communicate experience in words.
Since the New York Academy of Sciences sponsored its 1996 conference, Psychobiology of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), in New York City, there have been major research advances in the understanding and treatment of this disorder. Most of the biologic findings presented at the 1996 conference in extremely preliminary form have withstood the test of time and replication, and almost without exception the researchers who presented at the previous conference are still active researchers in the field of PTSD. The field has undergone a dramatic improvement in the quality of findings — issues that appeared to be relatively simple ten years ago with only limited data available are now far more complex. However, strategies for examining the psychobiology of PTSD have allowed the field to keep pace with these complexities. This volume integrates basic science and clinical research, so that both bench researchers and clinicians can develop a comprehensive understanding of recent progress in posttraumatic stress research, including its molecular biology, pathophysiology, neurology, epidemiology, clinical care, and psychosocial management.
Source: Clinical Implications of Neuroscience Research in PTSD- New York Academy of Sciences
New evidence points to the damage to the hippocampus following exposure to the stress brought on by childhood abuse leads to distortion and fragmentation of memories.
For instance, in the case of the PTSD sufferer who was locked in a closet as a child, she had a memory of the smell of old clothes but other parts of her memory of the experience, such as a visual memory of being in the closet or a memory of the feeling of fear, are difficult to retrieve or completely lost. In cases like this, psychotherapy or an event that triggers similar emotions may help the patient restore associations and bring all aspects of the memory together.
Besides the hippocampus, abnormalities of other brain areas, including medial prefrontal cortex, are also associated with PTSD.
The medial prefrontal cortex regulates emotional and fear responses. The medial prefrontal cortex is closely linked to the hippocampus. In several studies we have found dysfunction of both the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus at times when patients were suffering from PTSD symptoms.
We believe that dysfunction in these medial prefrontal regions may underlie pathological emotional responses in patients with PTSD. For example, we sometimes see a failure of extinction of fear responses — a rape victim who was raped in a dark alley will have fear reactions to dark places for years after the original event, even though there is no threat associated with a particular dark place. In a study using combat-related slides and sounds to provoke PTSD symptoms, combat veterans with PTSD had decreased blood flow in the area of the medial prefrontal cortex.
Traumatic stress, such as that caused by childhood sexual abuse, can have far-reaching effects on the brain and its functions. Recent studies indicate that extreme stress can cause measurable physical changes in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex, two areas of the brain involved in memory and emotional response. These changes can, in turn, lead not only to classic PTSD symptoms, such as loss and distortion of memory of events surrounding the abuse, but also to ongoing problems with learning and remembering new information. These findings may help explain the controversial phenomenon of “recovered” or delayed memories. They also suggest that how we educate, rehabilitate and treat PTSD sufferers may need to be reconsidered.
Source: The Invisible Epidemic: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Memory and the Brain
PTSD displays biochemical changes in the brain and body, which are different from other psychiatric disorders such as major depression.
Although the systematic study of meditation is still in its infancy, research has provided evidence for meditation-induced improvements in psychological and physiological wellbeing. Moreover, meditation practice has been shown not only to benefit higher-order cognitive functions but also to alter brain activity. Nevertheless, little is known about possible links to brain structure. Using high-resolution MRI data of 44 subjects, we set out to examine the underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation with different regional specificity (i.e., global, regional, and local). We detected significantly larger gray matter volumes in meditators in the right orbito-frontal cortex (as well as in the right thalamus and left inferior temporal gyrus when co-varying for age and/or lowering applied statistical thresholds). In addition, meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus. Both orbito-frontal and hippocampal regions have been implicated in emotional regulation and response control. Thus, larger volumes in these regions might account for meditators’ singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in [conscious] behavior. We further suggest that these regional alterations in brain structures constitute part of the underlying neurological correlate of long-term meditation independent of a specific style and practice. Future longitudinal analyses are necessary to establish the presence and direction of a causal link between meditation practice and brain anatomy.
Field Study by Karen Monteverdi, CPC
My area of expertise is coaching creating cohesion in the mind-body-spirit relationship.
During my years of coaching I have encountered many victims of PTSD that had gone previously undetected. The range of symptoms of PTSD can be subtle at times and may be missed by both the client and their doctors.
One of the most important things that must occur is the diagnosis from a trained professional; I am not qualified for such to make this diagnosis but I am qualified to refer my clients to a medical doctor who specializes in the chemical imbalances that show up in PTSD patience.
Once diagnosed the client then undergoes treatment from both an allopathic doctor and a naturopathic physician. My goal is to make sure all treatment is effective and is coordinated. All treatment will need to be under the licensed physicians supervision, unless a release form is signed.
1- Meditation is a key part of this treatment. This is always a guided meditation, it is important to relax and create trust in the guide.
2- Diet is important to this process as well. Through the research I have explored may processes and will continue to do so, however, one key element is the high volume cortisol in each client. This is due to a lack of serotonin in the body. Recent studies have shown that the enteric nervous system uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the bowels. Digestion is an important factor when treating PTSD. (Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone or glucocorticoid produced by zona fasciculate of the adrenal cortex, which is a part of the adrenal gland it is usually referred to as the “stress hormone” as it is involved in response to stress and anxiety, controlled by Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). It increases blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces immune responses.)
3- One of the key determiners for me is to look for someone who creates constant chaos in their life, the simplest of tasks can become overwhelming. Another key element is watching how they react to chaos in public. One of my clients could not go into Walmart because of the lack of cohesion in the color patterns, and lights, their head ‘swims’ and they begin to feel nauseous. The person resists structures and sets up emotional disturbances to create overwhelm in their life. When this process is detected it is important to add structure back into the life of the individual. This can create its own set of overwhelming affects, but with patience and unwavering conviction on the part of the coach it does become a straight forward process of accountability, integrity and response able techniques. We use several outside resources such as the 7-Habits of Highly Effective People, and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
4- Behavior change must also occur; moving the client from a state of mind that is negative to a state of mind that is neutral is the first step to this process. Acceptance is key leading the client to understand that negative emotions are not a curse they are signposts. This allows the client to become less resistant to their emotions and therefore reduces the amount of anxiety about how they feel.
5- There is a sense of deep helplessness for these particular clients. Utilizing tools such as Developing Capable Young People, work very effectively in setting up structures and boundaries for the adult self.
6- Moving the client to create a visualization of the child ‘self’ that is outside of its own current experience of life is also an important factor in healing. As long as the client sees himself or herself as being the one currently attached to the trauma the foothold of the distress will continue. Allowing them to move into a state of observation detaching from the events that caused the trauma they begin to see the experience as no longer part of their personal identification but as an event that is separate from who they are. This is important because as long as they identify themselves or define themselves by the event they cannot move forward into a healing transition. Forgiveness is the most effective tool to allow the client to create an observational stance. For this work we utilize Hartland Forgiveness tools by Dr. Michael Ryce.
7- Grounding techniques are a key factor in re-orientation. Grounding is a process of refocusing energy into their current location in time and space. This means they are acutely aware of their body, and the surroundings that exist. We often use “butt in the chair” technique. This is where we have the client feel the chair, and feel their butt and feel their butt in the chair. Crude but effective, we have them place their feet on the ground flatfooted, then feel their footwear, and the ground they are resting their feet upon. The next step is to have them feel their butt again, and pretend there is a circuit of light going from their butt down their legs and into the ground, and back up their legs and back into their butt. The circuit then enters the chair and they do the same process again using the components of the chair. If this is successful we teach them how to use this process every time there is a feeling of overwhelm.
Being aware that they are not alone in the process of healing is paramount. Therefore these clients usually come to see me 2x a week. We charge a very low rate to those with PTSD because we remember what it was like in our own recovery. Here is an “excerpt” from my book Living Consciously In an Ego Driven Society page: 37-38; when I first began to have symptoms of PTSD after the death of my beloved husband who died in a horrific car accident.
“Although I wrote it in my journal, it took me years to recognize the fact that I had been listening to what the reactive emotions were telling me. At that point, I got busy. I recognized that it was my responsibility to pay off all of our debt from his Kombucha tea business. So I began working three jobs (more avoidance); I put my mind out of the emotion and did not morn his loss but instead got busy with the physical reality of creating freedom from debt.
One day after having what I experienced as the flu, I began to realize that I was avoiding seeing what was really going on those last six months of our marriage. After several years of this self-infliction I began to see him everywhere. The avoidance of dealing with my emotions caused a deep internal suffering. The suffering produced a disorder called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Basically Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as I experienced it, was a disconnection from survival (located in the brainstem) and an avoidance of emotions (located in the limbic system). My experience and research brought me to the conclusion that the brainstem does not use words to tell you what is needed; instead it uses images.
Suddenly Chris would appear wounds and all, standing in front of me, walking around me in my waking hours. His body was torn by the accident. I couldn’t remember him as he was prior to the accident. Even looking at photos didn’t help. A new fear set in, fear I was losing my mind. More often than not, I functioned relatively well but any stress, a loud noise, or smell could bring on the images. As a result of this trauma, I began to hide away in my home and only see people who hadn’t known Chris well. Up until this point, I hadn’t yet really mourned his death or dealt with the way he had died. My feeling of trust disappeared, both in myself and in others. Life no longer seemed safe or real to me. The past became more real than the present.
My doctor offered me pharmaceuticals, and in the beginning they seemed to help. The side effects, however, were not favorable to me. After the numbness of mind set in, I began to create a new program for myself.
Using bodywork, a sociologist, a life coach and through writing in my journal, I began to create healing. In a short period of time I was beginning to emerge from the trauma. The movement I created was from one lesson to another and produced incremental healing. I began to see reality again, living in each moment. True reality only exists in the present moment. The past and future only exist in our minds, and through discipline and training, that which harms you can be removed and replaced with that which supports our vitality and wellbeing.”
Feel free to read my book you can find out more about it at http://www.livingconsciouslybook.com where you can also purchase a copy from Amazon.
You can give me a call at 503.762.3118; if I’m not available leave a message I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. My time zone is PDT.