Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Physical effects of PTSD

In post-traumatic stress disorder, the cycling back between fight/flight and freezing continues and becames a self-sustaining feedback circuit. The cycle takes on a life of its own.

This pattern becomes imprinted in the neural networks, initially underground but eventually as a self-perpetuating system. If left unchecked, symptoms become increasingly entrenched, and often worsen.

PTSD can be immediately triggered by:
-Spontaneous memories
-Flashbacks
-Nightmares

PSTD might become activated from even vaguely related cues of the initial threat, such as a loud noise, a reminiscent smell, a movement from the corner of the eye, a familiar building or the shadow of a person approaching from behind.

Constant activation of the body's alarm system can lead to several physical complaints. Because these conditions are generated in the brain stem, peripheral forms of treatment provide only temporary relief.

This is why, for the PTSD victim, it's difficult to distinguish between physical compaints and their psychological underpinnings.

Source:
Naparstek, Belleruth. Invisible Heroes. NY: Bantam Bell, 2004.

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