Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Pain and sadness are homeless beggars in my life, displaced feelings that come and go, plopping down for their own reasons, sleeping in any corner of my brain. They wear at me with a constant tiredness that I have to chase out.

"Sometimes, though, a trigger pulls inside me, and the pain goes off, getting bad. It isn't like I know all the triggers, but school newness is a definite."

- Clinton, Cathryn. The Eyes of Van Gogh.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Strategies for Coping With Panic

1. Remember that although your feelings and symptoms are very frightening, they are not dangerous or harmful.

2. Understand that what you are experiencing is just an exaggeration of your normal bodily reactions to stress.

3. Do not fight your feelings or try to wish them away. The more you are willing to face them, the less intense they will become.

4. Do not add to your panic by thinking about what "might" happen. If you find yourself asking "What if?" tell yourself "So what!"

5. Stay in the present. Notice what is really happening to you as opposed to what you think might happen.

6. Label your fear level from zero to ten and watch it go up and down. Notice that it does not stay at a very high level for more than a few seconds.

7. When you find yourself thinking about the fear, change your "what if" thinking. Focus on and carry out a simple and manageable task such as counting backward from from 100 by 3's or snapping a rubber band on your wrist.

8. Notice that when you stop adding frightening thoughts to your fear, it begins to fade.

9. When the fear comes, expect and accept it. Wait and give it time to pass without running away from it.

10. Be proud of yourself for your progress thus far, and think about how good you will feel when you succeed this time.

Jerilyn Ross, M.A., L.I.C.S.W., The Ross Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, Disorders, Inc., Washington, DC. Adapted from Mathews et al., 1981.

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PMS and PTSD: A bad combination

The reason that PTSD survivors are affected differently from others when faced with the same stressful situation is that person carries a different emotional history inside our bodies. The external event may reawaken the lingering memories of similar events from the past, memories that carry their own set of anxieties.

The residue of emotional trauma from earlier in life can be held deep inside the body where it influences the way we live our lives, and disrupts normal bodily functioning. When an event occurs that is similar to the originating event, it can aggravate the hidden emotions and cause them to flare up, worsening our behavior and exacerbating our physical problems.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.

Many people with PTSD repeatedly re-experience the ordeal in the form of flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when they are exposed to events or objects reminiscent of the trauma. Anniversaries of the event can also trigger symptoms.

Emotional symptoms can include:
■ Hypervigilence
■ Exaggerated startle response
■ Irritability or outbursts of anger
■ Heart-stopping terror
■ Emotional numbness
■ Depression, anxiety
■ Feelings of intense guilt
■ Sleep disturbances such as nightmares and recurring dreams of the event

People with PTSD tend to have abnormal levels of key hormones involved in response to stress. Fear, an emotion that evolved to deal with danger, causes an automatic, rapid protective response in many systems of the body. For people with PTSD, the "fight or flight" response becomes inappropriately aroused.

PMS: Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
Emotional symptoms can include:
■ Mood swings
■ Fear, nervous tension
■ Feeling overwhelmed, powerless, out of control
■ Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts
■ Phobias, feelings of suspicion
■ Sleep disturbances

The words used to describe panic disorders are often frightening. But there is great hope: Treatment can benefit virtually everyone who has this condition.

Several types of medication, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants, can help relieve the symptoms of both PMS and PTSD.

Additional treatment options:
■ Breathing exercises: Control breathing to avoid hyperventilation
■ Replace alarmist thoughts with calmer ones
■ Approach fearful situations gradually
■ Join a support group

National Institute of Mental Health
Toll-Free: 1-88-88-ANXIETY (1-888-826-9438)
E-mail: nimhinfo@nih.gov
NIMH Web site:

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Recent research on PTSD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

■ In brain imaging studies, researchers have found that the hippocampus—a part of the brain critical to emotion—appears to be different in cases of PTSD. Scientists are investigating whether this is related to short-term memory problems. Changes in the hippocampus are thought to be responsible for intrusive memories and flashbacks that occur in people with this disorder.

■ People with PTSD tend to have abnormal levels of key hormones involved in response to stress. Some studies have shown that cortisol levels are lower than normal and epinephrine and norepinephrine are higher than normal.

■ When people are in danger, they produce high levels of natural opiates, which can temporarily mask pain. Scientists have found that people with PTSD continue to produce those higher levels even after the danger has passed; this may lead to the blunted emotions associated with the condition.

For more information:
National Center for PTSD:

National Institute of Mental Health
Toll-Free: 1-88-88-ANXIETY (1-888-826-9438)
E-mail: nimhinfo@nih.gov
NIMH Web site:

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Helping Traumatized Children Learn

The Massachusetts Advocates for Children has released a report and policy agenda to help ensure that children traumatized by family violence succeed in school.

The report sets forth an education and policy agenda to help schools become more supportive environments where traumatized children can focus, behave appropriately, and learn.


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Wednesday, July 04, 2007



Another survivor of the system shares statistics and information about PTSD...

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Intimacy can bring emotional damage to the surface

Whatever the surface appearances, most human beings come equipped with convoluted emotional machinery... With intimacy, the wreckage starts to show.

- Sue Grafton, D is for Deadbeat