Sunday, July 15, 2007

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)
NIMH Web site:

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Blogger Kathleenb said...

Just wanted to comment that my 19yo adopted son and 17yo adopted daughter recently began taking a beta blocker to reduce their adrenaline and anxiety levels. The results have been just about miraculous. My daughter won't miss a dose because she feels so much calmer, less argumentative, less riled up all the time. She is much easier to get along with - and so she is able to accomplish more. My son no longer has terrifying nightly dreams.

2:19 PM  

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