PTSD brain

Following the Vietnam War the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is being given much attention. During World Wars I and II, the disorder was known as shell shock and thought to be caused by the immediate stress of battle.

The cure, at the time, was to let the men lie quietly in or just outside the medical tent away from the battle area, and rest until their nerves settled down.

Once the syndrome was described, it was discovered that perhaps 25% or more of persons who have never been in the military have experienced PTSD. It has been precipitated by such things as child abuse or other childhood trauma such as emotional abandonment by parents or parental surrogates. In adults it has been precipitated by serious car accidents, major surgery, rapes, muggings, and in general by any other event in which the person felt helpless during an event he/she perceived as life threatening.

Nine times more females than males are now known to experience PTSD, and up to 75% of persons suffering from fibromyalgia have PTSD either currently or in their background.

It is now known that PTSD represents a basic split off of parts of the brain in which the emotional trauma was recorded, so that the waking brain remains unaware of it. The problem is that the part of the brain storing the memory often reactivates during sleep and the event is recalled in very stressful nightmares. Also, during the day, any number of small stimuli that occur can reactivate that section of the brain, and a flashback occurs. Accompanying a nightmare or flashback, the entire sympathetic nervous system
is called into play and the resulting stress, both physical and emotional can be
overwhelming.

Because so many things can trigger a flashback, the person slowly but surely begins to close off ever more areas of his past experience in order to not provoke an episode. The brain actually becomes phobic of those activities that can act as triggers, and closes them off from its daily awareness. The person, as a result, remains in hyper aroused alert status, with an ever narrower life view and experience. To those looking on, the person become quieter, less sociable, and tends to limit activities in all areas of
his/her life more and more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *