Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is becoming a cliché term thrown around in dramatic, charismatic conversation. Many people question if PTSD is even real.
My grandfather fought in WW II and experienced night terrors and sleep disturbances until the day he died, a common symptom of PTSD. Medical professionals tend to reserve the PTSD diagnosis for military vets and victims of extreme trauma or violence, which may be appropriate. But what about the individuals who suffer with no major cause often begging the question, “What the heck is wrong with me?!”
PTSD involves a traumatic disruption in the nervous system resulting in continued release of stress hormones. Obviously war, extreme trauma, and violence are credible sources to initiate this disruption. There are four major symptoms of PTSD paraphrased as follows:
- Unwanted thoughts: This may take the form of reliving negative events via memories, day dreaming, nightmares, and flashbacks. These thoughts intrude without warning or preface.
- Fear avoidance: Simply avoiding people, places, and situations that may remind the individual of the trauma.
- Poor memory and negativity: Forgetfulness, brain fog, constant blame placing, inability to see things in a positive light, flat affect (no emotion).
- Hyperactivity and poor reactions: Aggression, poor value of self or others, inability to sleep and relax, hyper-alert and aware.
Anthony William, The Medical Medium suggests in his blog that there is an “epidemic of hidden PTSD.” It’s hard not to agree with this as a medical professional. It is not uncommon to see these exact four symptoms in individuals with no preceding traumatic or violent event. As a physical therapist it is my responsibility to restore normal physical function but with symptoms of hypervigilance, sleep disturbance, and disrupted mood it’s difficult to believe that simple exercise is the full answer. May it get the ball rolling? Yes, but the underlying cause is a mystery. Or is it? From my point of view, the death of a spouse or child, failure in school, and parental disappointment are a few of the so-called “minor” traumas that may have started a downward tailspin into Stress Hormone City, eliciting one or more of the above symptoms. Recognizing the signs and symptoms that mimic PTSD is the first step in creating and cultivating a cure.
The national library of medicine (NIH) and biotechnology (NCBI) house a host of articles supporting the usefulness of meditation to combat PTSD in soldiers. In my opinion, meditation can be an educational point for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of PTSD.
Besides meditation, Anthony William suggests a dietary approach. Glucose acts as a protector of the brain and nervous system. Glucose is readily available for muscular use through the liver, its own glycogen storages, and fat metabolism but not for the brain. The brain is extremely sensitive and prefers blood glucose from just eaten carb sources favoring fruits and vegetables. When glucose is not readily available, it will attempt to get what it needs from the liver but this is not an endless supply. The brain is quite sensitive to just the right amount of glucose. Utilizing unhealthy, just eaten, glucose laden food (such as grains, soda, and sugar) actually damages brain tissue—kind of like over-watering a plant, the brain becomes over-glucosed compromising neural health. Hello hangry, brain fog, and memory problems!
Because PTSD is a disorder of the nervous system, providing it with the right sources and amount of glucose may help. Great brain food can be found in the produce aisle!
There are many facets of wellness, and to fully heal from or manage PTSD one must create a positive relationship with spirituality, occupation, friendships, family, animals, and the environment. Meditation is one suggestion to aide in transmuting negativity in any of these areas to positivity.
The evidence supports the use of multiple psychotherapeutic approaches as well, and these will also aide in returning the body to a de-stressed state.
*None of this information is to be a substituted for professional healthcare.