What exactly is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Recently it has been gathering much attention within the military and veteran community. It plays a considerable role in the unfortunate statistic of 22 suicides a day with current and past military. Beyond military PTSD can occur from a variety of things including physical or emotionally abusive relationships, car accidents, and head injuries.
● Decreased Motivation
PTSD is not purely a neurochemical issue, but results in structural alterations as well. Unfortunately, the majority of individuals diagnosed with PTSD are sent to psychiatrists or counselors and treatment is aimed at anxiety, depression, and other emotional signs. This works for a few, but unfortunately at least 33% have persistent symptoms. By having an understanding that the brain from a structural and functional level plays a role in the development and symptoms of PTSD offers much more promise for treatment.
Factors Involved with PTSD
Many individuals suffer from traumatic events, but it is estimated about 10% will develop PTSD. There are many causes such as TBI, concussion, car accidents, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and rape.
Below we are going to briefly explore areas of dysfunction: hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, amygdala and hippocampus, and parasympathetic system. It is important to note that these systems all interact and influence each other.
Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis)
When a stressful event occurs our body will go to a fight or flight response(sympathetic). During this time epinephrine and cortisol are released. Epinephrine is what allows for our heart and breathing rates to increase. Cortisol is responsible for breaking down stored forms of energy. These responses should only occur during and shortly following the event. In PTSD, the response is prolonged. Which can lead to commonly seen symptoms of anxiety, poor sleep, altered immune system, and fatigue.
Amygdala and Hippocampus
The amygdala is involved in a circuit to process the meaning of stimuli. The hippocampus is involved with forming memories. In PTSD, the amygdala is not regulated correctly and designates things as bad. The hippocampus takes the input from the amygdala and creates memory of the event. This is why an individual can have so many triggers such as sight, sound, and smell. The amygdala hippocampus loop is also involved in the fear response, flash backs, and nightmares.
Normally the higher centers of our brain fire down to our parasympathetic (rest and digest) to decrease the sympathetic (fight or flight) response. In PTSD, especially those with a brain injury the higher centers and parasympathetic centers in the brainstem are impacted. This leads to an overly expressed sympathetic response.
Our Patient Specific Approach
Our staff understands the uniqueness of each patient that presents to our office. We especially understand the impact of a diagnosis of PTSD when it is only viewed from apsychological perspective. This is why we perform a comprehensive history, physical, and diagnostic work-up on each patient. To best help you we need to identify areas in the brain not functioning as correctly.
We have a unique environment where you will have adequate time to be understood and have all your questions answered. Part of our environment is one of positivity and laughter. Creating this environment will facilitate rejuvenation and healing.