Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) There is hope for survivors
Trauma can change us. Even small traumas: a car accident, a confrontation, death of a loved one; can alter our hormones and neurotransmitters, our digestion, our pain. We may notice dreams, intrusive thoughts, headaches, stomach aches, have trouble thinking clearly after such an event. But usually, in time, thoughts of the event fade and our bodies release hormones for restoration and recovery and we return to normal.
But what happens if that trauma is severe or prolonged or repeated such as in war, rape, domestic violence or a natural disaster? It alters our brains. Switches us into survival mode. Stress hormones are released that change our hormones and our neurotransmitters. These hormones affect our relationships, sleep, moods and cause physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, fatigue and increased risks of infection. This is known as Post traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
The main symptoms of PTSD are intrusive thoughts, mood alterations, exaggerated startle response and avoidance of stress triggering stimuli. A person may have nightmares, flashbacks, intense mood swings and suicidal thoughts.
There are two parts of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic. “Fight or Flight” and “Rest and Digest”. Our bodies heal when they are in parasympathetic mode not sympathetic mode. And if you suffer from anxiety or PTSD, you know that it is very difficult to get out of the “Fight or Flight” state of mind.
But here’s the thing. There is hope for survivors. The brain has to be talked off the ledge. It doesn’t happen right away. Start slow – ten minutes twice a day. Meditate, progressive relaxation, listen to soft music, slow walk in the garden, chant, pray, sing, hum… even if you don’t feel like you are doing anything. Find someone to talk to. Counseling is helpful. Yoga, acupuncture and massage all help reduce stress hormones.
Support the adrenal glands with B vitamins, holy basil tea, time in Nature.
Recently, there has been some attention in the news on using hyperbaric oxygen therapy for PTSD. Hyperbaric oxygen is breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber which increases the amount of oxygen dissolved in your blood. This in turn can increase oxygen delivery to injured and infected tissues which can aid in healing. Washington VA is using HBOT on its military vets with PTSD. Some studies are showing promise. And there are a few clinics in the area who have mild hyperbaric oxygen chambers, which are smaller, gentler versions than the ones at the hospitals.
If you are a survivor: don’t wait. There is help and hope. In time the brain can heal. You can live your life again.
Dr. Jennifer Means welcomes you for Primary Care for the whole family: Nutrition, IV Therapy, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture. Contact us at 503-641-6400.