How does PTSD affect the body?
Some studies suggest that dealing with a constant stress may damage the hippocampus, part of the limbic system of the brain that plays a major role in certain emotions, such as fear, anger, motivations and memory.
Our bodies release a hormone, cortisol, when we are stressed. Cortisol is very helpful in life threatening situations; however some studies have shown that high levels on a consistent basis may damage or destroy cells in the hippocampus.
Research has shown that some people that have severe PTSD have smaller hippocampi. This is significant in understanding the effects of trauma in general and the impact of PTSD, specifically since the hippocampus is the part of the brain that is thought to have an important role in developing new memories about life events.
What can be done?
Early intervention is the most beneficial; this can be done through any of the following:
- Support groups
- Certain medications
- Healing ceremonies
Any of the above can help to prevent and/or relieve the symptoms of PTSD.
Cognitive behavior therapy
- Learn techniques to manage thoughts and feelings that are in relation to the traumatic event,
- Done with the assistance of psychotherapist or other trained professional
- Over time a tolerance is built up and the symptoms are lessened
Stress management therapy
- Learn relaxation techniques to overcome fear and anxiety
- Done with the assistance psychotherapist or other trained professional
- Antidepressants (such as selective serotonin re uptake inhibitors (SSRI)
- Benzodiazepines (used for anxiety; have sedating properties and may cause drowsiness, constipation or nausea; other cautions apply please research before making a decision)
- Dopamine blocking agents (such as neuroleptics)
Complementary and alternative therapies
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Seems to reduce distress for many with PTSD
- Not clear how long the symptoms are lessened with this treatment
- Makes you aware how your body reacts to stress, which allows you to learn to control the reactions
- Some studies suggest this may be an effective treatment for some with PTSD
- Induces a state of deep relaxation, which helps lessen anxiety and decreases intrusive thoughts
- Usually used in conjunction with psychotherapy and should be done with a licensed hypnotherapist
Emotional freedom technique (EFT)
- Has shown great promise, more studies are needed