PTSD — Post-traumatic stress disorder

In the case of PTSD, treating the changes in physiology by supplementing the body with appropriate nutrients to support neurotransmitter production would be a great first step.

In the case of PTSD, treating the changes in physiology by supplementing the body with appropriate nutrients to support neurotransmitter production would be a great first step.

by Dr. Justin Petersen — 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following traumatic personal experiences or after witnessing a life-threatening event. Events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents or violent personal assaults like rape can induce PTSD.

Simply put, PTSD creates a state in which memories never stop. The person re-experiences the event in the form of flashbacks, nightmares or recollections. The trigger event usually involved substantial emotional distress, with accompanying feelings of helplessness, disabling fear and/or eminent loss of life or limb. The person suffering with PTSD avoids the places, activities or people that remind them of the event. The symptoms cause sympathetic hyperactivity or hypervigilance, including insomnia and irritability.

Biological changes

In addition to the psychological symptoms, PTSD is marked by some very clear biological changes. This can be somewhat complicated by the fact that this disorder frequently occurs in conjunction with other related disorders, such as depression, memory and cognitive problems, and substance abuse. Headaches, gastrointestinal issues, immune system problems, chest pain, dizziness and discomfort in other areas also are common in people with the disorder.

The prevalence of PTSD in our world today is staggering, given the myriad of natural disasters that currently plague our country and planet. Add to the equation the ongoing war in Iraq, memories of 9/11 and news of continuing terrorist activities worldwide, and it is easy to see how PTSD can affect so many in this day and age.

Unfortunately, PTSD is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed or swept under the carpet by those who suffer with it. This tends to be especially true in the military, where the label of a mental health disorder leads to both perceived and very real ramifications with regard to advancement opportunities, re-enlistment and troop/ship command.

Treatments for PTSD

The most critical steps in treating PTSD often are the most difficult — recognizing the problem and getting help.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) involves working with cognitions to change emotions, thoughts and behaviors. One form of CBT, exposure therapy, is unique to trauma treatment. It uses careful, repeated, detailed imagining of the trauma (exposure) in a safe, controlled context to help the survivor face and master the fear and distress that overwhelmed them during the trauma.

Pharmacotherapy (medication) can reduce the anxiety, depression and insomnia often experienced with PTSD and, in some cases, it may help relieve the distress and emotional numbness caused by trauma memories.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new treatment for traumatic memories that involves elements of exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy, combined with techniques such as eye movements, hand taps and sounds that alternate the patient’s attention back and forth across their midline.

Steps can be taken at home to help manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and reduce the levels of stress. These include relaxation exercises to help reduce anxiety; regular physical exercise; getting enough sleep; eating a balanced diet; meditation and prayer.

Functional medicine

Functional medicine, a modality not in common use in Western culture, is another approach to treating this disorder and can be employed by any health professional, whether a D.C., M.D., D.O., Ph.D., etc. Practitioners of functional medicine focus on identifying the functional cause of the body’s distress or dis-ease and treating that cause accordingly.

In the case of PTSD, treating the changes in physiology by supplementing the body with appropriate nutrients to support neurotransmitter production would be a great first step. Rather than focusing on symptomatology and/or the effects of dysfunction, practitioners of functional medicine discover and treat the originating cause of a problem with a holistic vs. mechanistic approach. Rapid improvement of health and overall function, with documentable physiological changes, can then be seen.

No matter which form of treatment is pursued, the important thing is that treatment is received quickly and efficiently. There is no need to continue to suffer from PTSD. If you or a loved one are afflicted, get the help you need now and start enjoying life again.

 

Dr. Justin Petersen is a doctor of chiropractic who focuses on functional healthcare with attention to nutritional biochemistry and muscle testing as a somatic window into the nervous system. He has a massage therapy background with recent licensure and massage training in Texas. drjustin@earthlink.net or 480-563-4256

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 6, December 2005/January 2006.

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