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PTSD and Trauma Symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Trauma Symptoms

If you feel that you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and are experiencing Trauma Symptoms, Dr. Diane® and her integrative team of brain health experts have the Solutions and Resources to help you get your life back!

Traumatic events come in many forms. For some, trauma is losing a loved one or dealing with the pain of terminal illness. For so many others, natural disasters and tragic events such as those in Boston, New Orleans, Houston, New York City and the Pentagon, or overseas in Paris, Israel, or Iraq have been life-altering. No matter the cause, these traumatic events leave us feeling lost and helpless. If you have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and are experiencing Trauma Symptoms, Dr. Diane and her team can give you help and hope for a brighter future.

What is a Trauma vs. something being Traumatic?

The Limbic SystemWhen you experience something out of the normal your body and brain react in fear, which is a normal emotional response. You have specific areas of the brain that control your emotions of sadness, anger, and fear.

Sympataic and Parsymapthic Nervous SystemThis specific area of the brain is the Limbic System, which controls your autonomic response: Sympataic and Parsymapthic Nervous System.

 

Life experiences create physical and psychological stimulation that summon responses from both body and mind from our autonomic system. Without you putting any thought into it, your body reacts, and if the situation is perceived as life threatening your body goes into a fight or flight situation. This is our basic protective system. If a lion is about to attack a goat for food, the goat does not think about what to do, but instead starts to run as fast as it can, due to its autonomic system kicking into action. In this situation, the brain sends a signal to our adrenal glands, which creates a surge of adrenaline.

 

The difference between a trauma and traumatic experience is the ability to comfort and soothe the over stimulation of the limbic system. If the event is within your everyday experience, you have a comforting support system that activates your frontal lobe, which is the only part of the brain that thinks and responds. The rest of your brain is either for functional use or is reactive to protect itself. If the brain perceives it as something to avoid, yet feels in control and emotionally comforted, the adrenaline is reduced and the body becomes calm once again. However, if there is either repeated trauma without any reasoning, the brain continues to react in fear: fight/flight.

 

The age of a person who experiences a trauma is extremely important, because the connective tissue from the limbic system to the frontal lobe starts to develop at age 3 and is completed at age 24. This is why an infant is unable to soothe themselves when they perceive something that causes the fear response in their body. This is why comforting parents or caregivers are extremely important, because they act as the frontal lobe by bringing reason and comfort. If a 5 year-old is frightened, they run to one of their parents or caregivers, who then embrace them with a hug and reassures them that they are safe. This comfort signals the reactive brain to calm down. If this essential process is NOT done, the reactive brain continues sending signals that the child is in danger.

This is the fear response, and now you are living your life by a fear driven brain. It can be activated by failing a test; you might flush with embarrassment and feel defensive or guilty. Faced with losing a job or relationship; you may tremble, sweat, and feel awash in self-reproach. These reactions show that circumstances have pushed you beyond your tolerance level, which in turn activated your defenses.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD is a normal defense that goes out of control. There is no connection to the frontal lobe; the person is now in a totally reactive state and has no ability to stop said reaction. It is the signature of injury from violence such as combat, assault, domestic violence, and auto accidents. With this syndrome, you find yourself involuntarily reliving the traumatic experience in your mind. You may also experience nightmares, feelings of overwhelming helplessness and anxiety, nervous alertness, distractibility, and depression. If you also have amnesia, instead of experiencing intrusive memories and flashbacks, you may experience emotional or bodily sensations evoked by sounds, colors, temperatures, or other stimuli that are in some way related to the accident. For instance, cracking ice might be upsetting because it mimics the sound of breaking glass. The reactions to PTSD may be heightened if the disaster was life-threatening and caused you to feel overwhelmingly vulnerable. You may have feelings of guilt and shame over the inability to live life as before. These emotions can leave you isolated, reproachful, and filled with self-doubt. They can be compounded by a prior history of coping problems, which makes psychological distress more likely, or by the malaise that accompanies chronic fatigue.

PTSD and Concussion

It should not surprise you to learn that psychological reactions can easily be triggered by the physical and emotional upheaval of a Concussion, which is a Traumatic injury from an outside force to the brain. A Concussion causes dysregulations in the brain, making the brain unable to connect to the frontal lobe or perceive any comfort or soothing. If you had a history of PTSD and now have experienced a brain injury from a Concussion or Stroke, your symptoms are heightened even more because there is a post injury psychological reaction.

Why Post Injury Psychological Reactions Occur

Similar to how your immune system kicks in as a response to a deep cut or an infection, the circumstances and aftermath of brain trauma ignite psychological responses. Physical and emotional pain that exceed your personal threshold can make you feel nauseated or numb, or even make you faint. Such physical reactions are often part of psychological upheaval.

 

Psychological responses also commonly involve emotional, cognitive, or behavioral elements. Emotional elements may include denial, avoidance, anxiety, emotional numbness, and/or feelings of grief or guilt. Cognitive reactions may take the form of rationalizing, blaming, and/or being judgmental. Behavioral elements may include aggressiveness, expressions of anger, withdrawal, diminished abilities, lack of control, and overwhelming sadness. In many cases, behavioral responses develop into physical symptoms such as headaches, ulcers, chest pain, sleep problems, or suppression of the immune system. Extraordinary life experiences, including such unexpected and traumatic occurrences as fire, assault, sport or recreational injury, automobile accidents, and combat often lead to posttraumatic stress. The same is true of a Concussion. This can be experienced immediately as acute stress, or as a delayed response months or even years later.

What Post Injury Psychological Reactions are Like

Post Concussive symptoms are often experienced as a personal disaster. You may have feelings of defeat, frustration, and inadequacy. In addition, you may suffer anxiety over your sudden lack of control over things and the sense that you have failed yourself and your family.

 

When your mind and body are out of harmony or balance (neurologically dysregulated), a distress signal is sent to indicate danger to you. This may take the form of pain. To avoid feeling this pain, your mind or body’s reaction is to shut down through an initial reaction of numbness. Following this shut-down phase is another set of responses called the “fight-flight-freeze” mode. At this point, some people choose the “fight” option—that is, they take the offensive as a way of dealing with aftereffects, displaying such responses as verbal or physical aggression, angry outbursts, and blaming others. Others choose “flight;” their psychological response is to withdraw, flee, or psychologically defend themselves against the realization of sudden personal changes. This withdrawal can take different forms, including physical withdrawal (such as literally running away from an accident scene), denial (refusing to believe the injury happened), rationalization (coming up with an explanation of its cause), or guilt (blaming oneself). A person exhibits “freeze” behavior by becoming overwhelmed by the fear that something is wrong and becoming emotionally, and sometimes physically, paralyzed and unable to function.

 

In most situations, psychological responses are not displayed in separate parts, but as a mixture of reactions. For instance, if you were injured in a sports contest or an automobile accident, it might be emotionally easier for you to express feelings of anger at the player who injured you or other driver (aggressiveness) and to insist that the collision was his or her fault (rationalizing and blaming) than it would be either to acknowledge that you might be to blame or to focus your thoughts on the disabilities you now face. This is especially true if such an acknowledgment might be painful—say, if alcohol or drugs were involved, or if a loved one was injured while you were behind the wheel, or if you must deal with a permanent physical disability of some kind.

POST CONCUSSION SYNDROME (PCS)

Amnesia – Yes
Anger – Yes
Lack of Awareness – Yes
Concentration Problems – Yes
Depression – Yes
Despair – Yes
Disorganization – Yes
Distractibility – Yes
Dizziness – Yes
Lack of Emotion – Yes
Fatigue – Yes
Headaches – Yes
Isolation and Withdrawal – Yes
Poor Judgement – Yes
Nightmares and Flashbacks – Yes
Personality Changes – Yes
Attempts to regain previous self-image – Yes
Short-term Memory Loss – Yes
Sleep Disturbances – Yes
Ultimate acceptance/resolution – Yes

POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)

Amnesia – Yes
Anger – Yes
Lack of Awareness – No
Concentration Problems – Yes
Depression – Sometimes
Despair – Yes
Disorganization – Yes
Distractibility – Yes
Dizziness – Sometimes
Lack of Emotion – Yes
Fatigue – Yes
Headaches – Sometimes
Isolation and Withdrawal – Yes
Poor Judgement – No
Nightmares and Flashbacks – Yes
Personality Changes – Yes
Attempts to regain previous self-image – Yes
Short-term Memory Loss – Yes
Sleep Disturbances – Yes
Ultimate acceptance/resolution – Yes

HEALTHY GRIEVING

Amnesia – No
Anger – Yes
Lack of Awareness – No
Concentration Problems – Yes
Depression – Sometimes
Despair – Yes
Disorganization – Yes
Distractibility – Yes
Dizziness – Sometimes
Lack of Emotion – No
Fatigue – Yes
Headaches – Sometimes
Isolation and Withdrawal – Yes
Poor Judgement – No
Nightmares and Flashbacks – No
Personality Changes – Sometimes
Attempts to regain previous self-image – Yes
Short-term Memory Loss – Sometimes
Sleep Disturbances – Yes
Ultimate acceptance/resolution – Yes

There is Help and Hope!

You do not have to live with symptoms of PTSD or Trauma.

 

Let Dr. Diane® and her integrative team of brain health experts customize a program to help you feel better today.  Dr. Diane’s Brain Rehabilitation Program can help return your life to its optimal level.  There is a Way!®

 

To schedule an appointment for an in-person, phone or Skype consult with Dr. Diane, please call us at 800-500-9971 or submit a contact form.