How Does PTSD Work?

Portrait of young female suffering from PTSD
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects millions of people from young children through adulthood and is a major source of disability among all countries. The ADAA says it develops from multiple factors and affects more than 18% of U.S. adults annually, but only about 36% of those experiencing PTSD receive treatment.
What is PTSD? According to the Mayo Clinic PTSD is “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” PTSD, as we’ve learned, is a lifelong disorder whose symptoms can be managed. The symptoms might not be realized until six months following an event but can be controlled using medication and clinical care. It can affect anyone, propelled by repeating memories of a terrifying experience. First responders, combat veterans, and medical professionals exposed to trauma are possible candidates of PTSD. PTSD and The Body Punishment inflicted by trauma and PTSD affects more than our psychological wellbeing. It results in the agony of migraines, stomach ailments, chronic pain, vomiting, pain in the lower back, muscle cramps. During trauma, our bodies react by forming deep muscle contractions as a defensive posture. Think of this as “fight or flight”, a deep-rooted instinct intended to keep us and animals alive. Surviving a traumatic encounter relieves tension through physical response – shaking, trembling, twitching. We take what happens, using the knowledge for future defense. How Does PTSD Affect the Brain? The effects of PTSD on our brains is the subject of much research and debate and with good reason. It’s the command center for our nervous system, routing signals from sensory organs and channeling them to muscles for an action. PTSD symptoms could result from dysfunction in two areas of our brains: The Amygdala, and the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC). Amygdala – A tiny almond-shaped structure situated deep in the center of our temporal lobe. It will:
  • Detect environmental threats and trigger the “fight or flight” reaction.
  • Jump-start the sympathetic nervous system for threat protection.
  • Help the brain bank away new threat-related or emotional memories.
Prefrontal Cortex – Hides out in the frontal lobe behind the forehead. It helps:
  • Control awareness and attention.
  • Undertake decisions about the appropriate responses to a given situation.
  • Commences voluntary behavior.
  • Figure out the emotional significance and meaning of events.
  • Control emotions
  • Prevent or fix dysfunctional reactions.
Another option for PTSD symptoms is ketamine, which “has been incorporated into the treatment of psychiatric disorders, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder,” plus chronic pain management. Intravenous ketamine therapy may be considered by the patient’s doctor as a treatment for psychiatric disorders or chronic pain management after the failure of standard care. PTSD and Children The effects of PTSD and its symptoms on children and teenagers is an area needing much research. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs studies, “about 15% to 43% of girls and 14% to 43% of boys go through at least one trauma. Of those children and teens who have had a trauma, 3% to 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys develop PTSD. Rates of PTSD are higher for certain types of trauma survivors.” As with adults, symptoms of PTSD in children and teens usually start within six months of a traumatic event and may last for years – with terrible consequences – if left untreated. It can be accompanied by anxiety, depression, or substance abuse, all caused by something the child experienced, saw happen, or saw happen to someone she was close to. Symptoms include sleep troubles, grouchiness, nervousness, problems expressing affection, and many others. How to Get Help If you suffer from PTSD, many types of treatment and support networks are available. Your doctor, therapist, or loved one may be the first line of defense. If you’re a U.S. veteran, you can contact the VA Crisis Line for assistance. Yale researchers believe some drugs, particularly ketamine, work powerfully to relieve PTSD symptoms when supplied in low doses. If you or a loved one is suffering from the symptoms of PTSD we can help. Contact us today to learn more about the clinical use of Ketamine to help treat mood disorders such as PTSD.


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