Natural treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
It was once called shell-shock or combat fatigue, but post-traumatic stress disorder affects many more people than war-weary veterans. Anyone who suffers a traumatic or disturbing event may fall prey to the disorder. PTSD is thought to affect about 10 percent of people in their life-time.
Once identified as the result of seeing heavy combat, post- traumatic stress disorder can happen to anyone after an over- whelmingly traumatic event such as a car accident, sexual assault, natural disaster, or even the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Around 1 percent of women who experience a miscarriage may end Lip suffering from PTSD.
The body produces a hormone called adrenaline in response to stress. With PTSD, adrenaline levels may remain high, causing tenseness, irritability, an inability to relax and insomnia. That adrenaline may also prevent the hippocampus, the part of the brain that processes memories, from doing its job.
An event will most likely lead to emotional or psychological trauma if:
· It happened unexpectedly.
· You were unprepared for it.
· You felt powerless to prevent it.
· It happened repeatedly.
· Someone was intentionally cruel.
· It happened in childhood.
Commonly overlooked causes of emotional and psychological trauma
· Falls or sports injuries
· Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)
· The sudden death of someone close
· A car accident
· The breakup of a significant relationship
· A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
· The discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition
Passive powerlessness during a traumatic event is related to a large risk of developing PTSD. Remaining active and focused on helping other people during combat exposure or natural disasters has been linked with a lower risk of symptoms. Opportunities to express distress after the event to other supportive people may also help prevent later symptoms.
Some of the most disturbing symptoms of PTSD include vivid memories and nightmares, which involve reliving the traumatic event over and over, often with the sounds, smells, pain and fear that were part of the original event. Because these traumatic memories are so painful, the person may be- come emotionally numb and avoid people and places that are reminders of the event. Finally, the PTSD patient may be 'on guard', always on the lookout for danger, which is called hyper vigilance. Irritability, depression, and physical symptoms such as headaches diarrhoea irregular heartbeat plus dependence on alcohol or drugs may be present. It affects more women than men.
Children can also suffer from PTSD. They may be prone to nightmares and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They may also recreate the traumatic even t while playing, and suffer from headaches and stomachaches.
A mental health practitioner can diagnose PTSD based on the symptoms. A medical examination should be done to rule out other possible causes of symptoms. PTSD generally co-exists with other disorders, such as depression , alcohol or substance abuse , panic disorder and other anxiety disorders.
The time-frame is important. Symptoms during the first four weeks after an event can actually be a positive sign that the mind is processing the event to recover. If symptoms persist for more than four weeks or longer and some- times even worsen, then PTSD may be present.
Emotional and psychological symptoms of trauma:
· Shock, denial, or disbelief
· Anger, irritability, mood swings
· Guilt, shame, self-blame
· Feeling sad or hopeless
· Confusion, difficulty concentrating
· Anxiety and fear
· Withdrawing from others
· Feeling disconnected or numb
· Physical symptoms of trauma:
· Insomnia or nightmares
· Being startled easily
· Racing heartbeat
· Aches and pains
· Difficulty concentrating
· Edginess and agitation
· Muscle tension
Guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the United Kingdom recommend using cognitive-behavioural therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) before medication for PTSD when possible.
• EMDR Although still controversial, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing has been shown effective in several studies for civilian and combat- related PTSD. The therapy com- bines elements of exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy along with rapid eye movements back and forth. During exposure to traumatic memories, the eye movements create an alternation of attention; researchers speculate this alternation somehow aids the mind in processing memories. The procedure usually requires fewer visits and costs less than conventional psychotherapy.
• EXPOSURE THERAPY This type of cognitive-behavioural therapy carefully uses repeated imaginings of the traumatic event in a safe environment to help the patient gain control of the fear. Desensitization uses a gradual approach along with relaxation techniques. Flooding is an exposure technique in which the patient confronts all the memories at once.
• GROUP THERAPY Speaking with others who have shared similar experiences may be useful for those with PTSD, especially in helping deal with 'survivor's guilt'.
• FAMILY THERAPY Family members are often affected by PTSD as well and may benefit from therapy.
• COGNITIVE-BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY
This therapy is effective when accompanied by repeated exposure of the self in imagination between sessions. This therapy changes thinking patterns so that reactions to certain situations also change. Behavioural therapy works to change specific behaviours with techniques including relaxation training and exposure.
• MEDICATION The most common- ly prescribed drugs for PTSD are the antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; they do not cure the disorder but instead relieve the symptoms, making treatment through psychotherapy more effective. Other antidepressants such as the tricyclics or MAO inhibitors may be used in some cases. Anti- anxiety drugs such as the benzodiazepines are often used to treat anxiety caused by PTSD, but are of limited benefit because they can lead to drug dependence and must be tapered off when discontinued.
• HYPNOTHERAPY Hypnosis can reduce anxiety, although no reliable research studies have compared hypnosis to proven effective methods. It may be used as an additional therapy along with cognitive-behavioural therapy or EMDR for PTSD.
• YOGA Relaxation techniques, including yoga and massage , may reduce anxiety associated with PTSD. Promising results with yoga have been obtained in a preliminary study at Boston University.