Posts Tagged ‘C-PTSD’

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.

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These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.
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In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.
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“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”
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The study was published Dec. 6 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The senior author is Jay Gottfried, professor of neurology at Feinberg.
Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients’ brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.
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This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas — in particular fear processing and memory — could also be affected by breathing.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing.
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Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.
When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.
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In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function — tied to the hippocampus — the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.
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The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.
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“If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster,” Zelano said. “As a result you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state. Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”
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Another potential insight of the research is on the basic mechanisms of meditation or focused breathing. “When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network,” Zelano noted.
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“Breath by Breath” : A Mirror

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Mindfulness is often likened to a mirror; it simply reflects what is there. It is not a process of thinking; it is preconceptual, before thought.
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One can be mindful of thought.
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There is all the difference in the world between thinking and knowing that thought is happening, as thoughts chase each other through the mind and the process is mirrored back to us.
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The only time that mindfulness can happen is in the present moment; if you are thinking of the past, that is memory.
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It is possible to be mindful of memory, of course, but such mindfulness can only happen in the present.
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Mindfulness is unbiased.
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It is not for or against anything, just like a mirror, which does not judge what it reflects.
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Mindfulness has no goal other than the seeing itself.
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It doesn’t try to add to what’s happening or subtract from it, to improve it in any way.
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It isn’t detached, like a person standing on a hill far away from an experience, observing it with binoculars.
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It is a form of participation—you are fully living out your life, but you are awake in the midst of it—and it is not limited to the meditation hall.
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It can be used on a simple process like the breathing, or on highly charged and unpleasant emotions like fear or loneliness.
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It can also follow us into the ordinary life situations that make up our day.
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MINDFULNESS SKILLS WORKBOOK FOR CLINICIANS AND CLIENTS 111 Tools, Techniques, Activities & Worksheets by Debra E Burdick, LCSWR,

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Cultivate a Witnessing Awareness THEORY:
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“Being “aware of awareness” is a revolutionary idea for many people.
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The idea is to notice what’s arising as it is arising.
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This includes awareness of thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and physical surroundings.
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It involves paying attention to what is happening in this moment and acknowledging and dismissing distractions.
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The goal is to remain aware without trying to change anything.
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Observe and accept what you observe.
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Awareness is the first step in eventually being able to change unwanted patterns.”
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Letting go

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Storm Clouds, Utah
Photograph by Steven Besserman, My Shot
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.We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned,
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so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
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– Joseph Campbell
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Exploring Our inner World

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Tulip Farm, Tasmania
Photograph by Anthony Crehan, Your Shot
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Mindfulness is a tool, a focus exercise that allows us to explore our inner world.
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The two pauses, after the inhale and exhale, bring our bodies into a sort of suspended animation stage.
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The mind and body are still, nothing moving, a pure opportunity to notice, to observe any sensation, tightness, agitation, sound, twitch or inner feeling.
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Maybe we observe complete silence, a deep quiet, or extreme agitation, or internal anxiety or mild tingling sensations.
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We are detectives, tasked with mapping our emotions internally.
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Where does fear, worry, anxiety, and anger reside, manifest themselves in the body.
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Some  emotions maybe acute, sharp, while others are dull or diffuse, while other are choppy, scary and others agitate the nervous system.

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It maybe the throat area, solar plexus, between the shoulder blades or in the groin area.
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Become friends with your fear, your fight or flight mechanism and life will calm down.
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Mindfulness has far more power and application than you could ever imagine.
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If happiness is an internal condition, it follows we should explore and become familiar with our inner world.
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Systematic Desensitization (SD or Desensitization) .

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To begin the process of systematic desensitization, one must first be taught relaxation skills in order to control fear and anxiety responses to specific phobias. Once the individual has been taught these skills, he or she must use them to react towards and overcome situations in an established hierarchy of fears. The goal of this process is that an individual will learn to cope and overcome the fear in each step of the hierarchy, which will lead to overcoming the last step of the fear in the hierarchy.
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Systematic desensitization is sometimes called graduated exposure therapy.
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Clinical Procedure
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Specific phobias are one class of mental illness often treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy and the process of Systematic Desensitization (SD). When individuals possess irrational fears of an object, they tend to avoid it. Since escaping from the phobic object reduces their anxiety, patients’ behavior to reduce fear is reinforced through negative reinforcement, a concept defined in operant conditioning. The goal of Systematic Desensitization is to overcome this avoidance pattern by gradually exposing patients to the phobic object until it can be tolerated. In classical and operant conditioning terms the elicitation of the fear response is extinguished to the stimulus (or class of stimuli).
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Prior to exposure, the therapist teaches the patient cognitive strategies to cope with anxiety. This is necessary because it provides the patient with a means of controlling their fear, rather than letting it build until it becomes unbearable. Relaxation training, such as meditation, is one type of coping strategy. Patients might be taught to focus on their breathing or to think about happy situations. Another means of relaxation is cognitive reappraisal of imagined outcomes. The psychotherapist might encourage subjects to examine what they imagine happening when exposed to the phobic object, allowing them to recognize their catastrophic visions and contrast them with the actual outcome. For example, a patient with a snake phobia might realize that they imagine any snake they encounter would coil itself around their neck and strangle them, when this would not actually occur.
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The second component of systematic desensitization is gradual exposure to the feared object. Continuing with the snake example, the therapist would begin by asking their patient to develop a fear hierarchy, listing the relative unpleasantness of various types of exposure. For example, seeing a picture of a snake in a newspaper might be rated 5 of 100, while having several live snakes crawling on one’s neck would be the most fearful experience possible. Once the patient had practiced their relaxation technique, the therapist would then present them with the photograph, and help them calm down. They would then present increasingly unpleasant situations: a poster of a snake, a small snake in a box in the other room, a snake in a clear box in view, touching the snake, etc. At each step in the progression, the patient is desensitized to the phobia through the use of the coping technique. They realize that nothing bad happens to them, and the fear gradually extinguishes.
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Research has shown that systematic desensitization can be effective in treating fears, phobias, other anxiety disorders, and a wide variety of other mental health and behavior problems. The effectiveness of systematic desensitization does not appear to depend on the intensity of your anxiety or problem, the duration of your anxiety, or on whether the anxiety was acquired suddenly or gradually.
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Affirmation addressing PTSD symptoms

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In this present moment, right now,
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I accept all of me,
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the anxious and the calm,
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the proud and the shamed,
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the perfect and the flawed,
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the powerful and the vulnerable
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the extrovert and the introvert
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the clear and the confused.
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