Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Millions of Americans suffer from postraumatic stress disorder. PTSD is recalling emotional trauma situations from the past such as rape, war, accidents, death of a loved one, an illness or disability, that can elicit the same panic response as the event itself. PTSD produce strong and lasting consequences, not only in our daily lives, but in our nervous system. The greater the trauma, the more a memory of the event can chemically trigger the vicitim to behave and think as if the event were taking place in the moment. PTSD develops when an event triggers the hypothalamus along with the amygdala. It then releases stress hormones, cortisol and norapanephrine, (adrelaline), that enhance memory.

This processes helps us to survive life threatening situations, by hightening our senses and perception. This therefore, helps us to remember anything associated with the trauma. Memories of the stressful event, are stored in the hippocampus. Then there is a releasing of chemicals that are manufactured by the hypothalamus and the amygdala that activate the hiippocampus to store the  memory. This chemical reaction encodes the memories and distributes them in the cerebral cortex, that stores the memories for the long term.

When someone recalls the trauma, the memory of that trauma transfers back to the hippocampus, where it triggers the release of more stress hormones in the hypothalamus and amygdala. When this happens, it causes the body to respond as if the experience was happening in the moment. The fight or flight response occures, creating many psychological responses. This results in the increase of blood pressure, breathing pattern, shaking, etc. This may occure without warning and for no apparent reason. With a simple thought, sight or sound, the body can be triggered within seconds with little understanding during that moment. The good news is, with psychotherapy and sometimes medication, those who suffer from PTSD can live their lives productively and in peace. Cognative behavioral therapy is one technique that can significantly reduce the symptoms of PTSD, through cognitive restructuring. The brain has the ability to change itself. Through help and hard work,neuro-pathwayas can be changed that will result in happier and more fulfilling lives.

Source: Evolve Your Brain, Joe Dispenza, 2007

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