Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

A Question from a viewer, Nik, how do I begin, where do I start????

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This post is three years old but just as relevant today.

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Nik, has recently experienced a full blown trigger with a big cortisol shock and panic feelings. Also he inquires how to deplete cortisol and begin healing.
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let me set the stage by describing our attitude towards healing, our practice; No right or wrong, good or bad, judgments or dialogue is involved. Cognitive thought and dissociation are the culprits of strengthening PTSD.
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Print out this simple model, a continuum of inhales, exhales and pauses without any counting, abstract thought or places to get lost. We will address this as a focus skill for the moment, no more no less. Mindfulness brings many connotations and judgments, so we practice this focus skill for now.
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Place your finger on the bottom right corner, starting the inhale, followed by the arched pause, where we hold our breath, before exhaling slowly. Then we pause again before starting a brand new cycle.
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The goal is to train the mind to slow down and let go of thought. The mind wants to go fast, activate the sympathetic nervous system, fill with adrenaline and cortisol, as usual.
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At first keep your eyes open, focusing on the rhythm of the breath as you slow it down. The inhales and exhales are equal, as are the two pauses, a sort of music symphony of the breath.
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Feel the cool inhales, feel the warmer exhales, and balance the body and breath with equal pauses. The inhale sets the pace, speed and duration of the balancing exhale. The first pause after the inhale, is matched by second pause after the exhale, giving the breath a sort of slow melodic feel.
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If a thought emerges, come back to the model, that is it. practice ten minutes twice a day for a week without judgment or goals, except to practice everyday.
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Let us round off the start with “Affirmations” said out loud and recorded everyday. In the shower, driving, working or before bed.
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I strive to accept all of me, the human strengths and frailties, the flawed and exceptional me, as well.
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I strive to accept my current position in life with gratitude, staying present to live fully today.
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I strive to take action in the face of distraction and thought, today!
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good luck, act, give up thinking for a while.
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Healing needs to be specific, concrete and immediate

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Keep your healing plan simple, specific, concrete and in the moment.
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The mind does not respond to abstract goals in the future.

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The mind does respond to specific, concrete and immediate goals.
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Perfect your ability to focus on the breath. (Breathing Track).
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Apply the focus when any trigger thought or distraction engages us.
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Apply when strong emotions invade our consciousness.
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Practice, practice, practice, this is not a spectator sport.
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Action heals, concerted focused action heals, much quicker?
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PTSD risk can be predicted by hormone levels prior to deployment March 8,2017

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Science Blog:
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Up to 20 percent of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder from trauma experienced during wartime, but new neuroscience research from The University of Texas at Austin suggests some soldiers might have a hormonal predisposition to experience such stress-related disorders.
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Cortisol — the stress hormone — is released as part of the body’s flight-or-fight response to life-threatening emergencies. Seminal research in the 1980s connected abnormal cortisol levels to an increased risk for PTSD, but three decades of subsequent research produced a mixed bag of findings, dampening enthusiasm for the role of cortisol as a primary cause of PTSD.
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However, new findings published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology point to cortisol’s critical role in the emergence of PTSD, but only when levels of testosterone — one of most important of the male sex hormones — are suppressed, researchers said.
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“Recent evidence points to testosterone’s suppression of cortisol activity, and vice versa. It is becoming clear to many researchers that you can’t understand the effects of one without simultaneously monitoring the activity of the other,” said UT Austin professor of psychology Robert Josephs, the first author of the study. “Prior attempts to link PTSD to cortisol may have failed because the powerful effect that testosterone has on the hormonal regulation of stress was not taken into account.”
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UT Austin researchers used hormone data obtained from saliva samples of 120 U.S. soldiers before deployment and tracked their monthly combat experiences in Iraq to examine the effects of traumatic war-zone stressors and PTSD symptoms over time.
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Before deployment, soldiers’ stress responses were tested in a stressful CO2 inhalation challenge. “Healthy stress responses showed a strong cortisol increase in response to the stressor, whereas abnormal stress responses showed a blunted, nonresponsive change in cortisol,” Josephs said.
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The researchers found that soldiers who had an abnormal cortisol response to the CO2 inhalation challenge were more likely to develop PTSD from war-zone stress. However, soldiers who had an elevated testosterone response to the CO2 inhalation challenge were not likely to develop PTSD, regardless of the soldiers’ cortisol response.
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“The means through which hormones contribute to the development of PTSD and other forms of stress-related mental illness are complex,” said Adam Cobb, a UT Austin clinical psychology doctoral candidate and co-author of the study. “Advancement in this area must involve examining how hormones function together, and with other psychobiological systems, in response to ever-changing environmental demands.”
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Knowing this, the scientists suggest future research could investigate the efficacy of preventative interventions targeting those with at-risk profiles of hormone stress reactivity. “We are still analyzing more data from this project, which we hope will reveal additional insights into risk for combat-related stress disorders and ultimately how to prevent them,” said Michael Telch, clinical psychology professor and corresponding author of the study.
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These findings add to a series of published reports from the Texas Combat PTSD Risk Project, a study funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency aimed at identifying biological, psychological and environmental vulnerability factors that predict the emergence of PTSD and other psychological problems among soldiers deployed to Iraq.
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the Undefeated Mind: pain

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Though the pain of a stubbed toe or a headache may seem like a single, unified experience, it actually represents the sum of two different experiences created by two separate areas of the brain—one called the posterior insula, which registers the sensation of pain (its quality, intensity, and so on) and the other the anterior cingulate cortex, which registers pain’s unpleasant character.
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We know this is how the brain experiences pain because of imaging studies and because patients who’ve had damage to the anterior cingulate cortex feel the sensation of pain but not its unpleasantness.
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That is, they feel pain but aren’t bothered by it (interestingly, in some people, morphine has the same effect).
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When the anterior cingulate cortex isn’t functioning, pain is still experienced but seems to lose its emotional impact and thus its motivating force.
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This finding, that the sensation of pain and the unpleasantness of pain come from distinct neurological processes that occur in different locations within the brain, explains how a single pain stimulus can cause such subjectively different pain experiences.
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Even if the physical sensation of pain remains constant, our “affective reaction” to it—how much it makes us suffer—will vary tremendously depending on several factors.
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Research shows, for example, that how we interpret the meaning of pain has a dramatic impact on our ability to tolerate it.
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In one study, subjects reported pain they believed represented tissue damage to be more intense than pain they believed didn’t, possibly explaining why women rate cancer pain as more unpleasant than labor pain even when their intensities are the same.
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Not only that, but when we focus on the benefit of pain (when one exists), we’re actually able to reduce its unpleasantness.
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Gaining Freedom

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Salmon River, Idaho
Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic
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“By breaking down our sense of self-importance,
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all we lose is a parasite that has long infected our minds.
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What we gain in return is freedom,
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openness of mind,
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spontaneity,
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simplicity,
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altruism:
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all qualities inherent in happiness.”
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~Matthieu Ricard
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What if PTSD Is More Physical Than Psychological?

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A new study supports what a small group of
military researchers has suspected for decades:
that modern warfare destroys the brain.
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By ROBERT F. WORTHJUNE 10, 2016
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In early 2012, a neuropathologist named Daniel Perl was examining a slide of human brain tissue when he saw something odd and unfamiliar in the wormlike squiggles and folds. It looked like brown dust; a distinctive pattern of tiny scars. Perl was intrigued. At 69, he had examined 20,000 brains over a four-decade career, focusing mostly on Alzheimer’s and other degenerative disorders. He had peered through his microscope at countless malformed proteins and twisted axons. He knew as much about the biology of brain disease as just about anyone on earth. But he had never seen anything like this.
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The brain under Perl’s microscope belonged to an American soldier who had been five feet away when a suicide bomber detonated his belt of explosives in 2009. The soldier survived the blast, thanks to his body armor, but died two years later of an apparent drug overdose after suffering symptoms that have become the hallmark of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: memory loss, cognitive problems, inability to sleep and profound, often suicidal depression. Nearly 350,000 service members have been given a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury over the past 15 years, many of them from blast exposure. The real number is likely to be much higher, because so many who have enlisted are too proud to report a wound that remains invisible.
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For years, many scientists have assumed that explosive blasts affect the brain in much the same way as concussions from football or car accidents. Perl himself was a leading researcher on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., which has caused dementia in N.F.L. players. Several veterans who died after suffering blast wounds have in fact developed C.T.E. But those veterans had other, nonblast injuries too. No one had done a systematic post-mortem study of blast-injured troops. That was exactly what the Pentagon asked Perl to do in 2010, offering him access to the brains they had gathered for research. It was a rare opportunity, and Perl left his post as director of neuropathology at the medical school at Mount Sinai to come to Washington.
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Perl and his lab colleagues recognized that the injury that they were looking at was nothing like concussion. The hallmark of C.T.E. is an abnormal protein called tau, which builds up, usually over years, throughout the cerebral cortex but especially in the temporal lobes, visible across the stained tissue like brown mold. What they found in these traumatic-brain-injury cases was totally different: a dustlike scarring, often at the border between gray matter (where synapses reside) and the white matter that interconnects it. Over the following months, Perl and his team examined several more brains of service members who died well after their blast exposure, including a highly decorated Special Operations Forces soldier who committed suicide. All of them had the same pattern of scarring in the same places, which appeared to correspond to the brain’s centers for sleep, cognition and other classic brain-injury trouble spots.
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Then came an even more surprising discovery. They examined the brains of two veterans who died just days after their blast exposure and found embryonic versions of the same injury, in the same areas, and the development of the injuries seemed to match the time elapsed since the blast event. Perl and his team then compared the damaged brains with those of people who suffered ordinary concussions and others who had drug addictions (which can also cause visible brain changes) and a final group with no injuries at all. No one in these post-mortem control groups had the brown-dust pattern.
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Continued in response section
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The Nine-Step Method for Transforming Trauma: Peter Levine

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The first thing is to create a sense of relative safety. You have to help the person feel just safe enough to begin to go into their bodies.
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Then, from that sense of relative safety created by the therapist and the environment, we help the person to support initial exploration and acceptance of sensations. And we do it, again, only a little bit at a time, so they “touch into their sensations” then come back into the room, into themselves.
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“From that sense of relative safety created by the therapist and the environment, we help the person to support initial exploration and acceptance of sensations.” The third step is a process I call “pendulation.” That’s a word I made up – what it means is that when people first begin to experience their body sensations, they actually feel worse for a moment. It is probably largely because they have avoided their sensations. So when they feel them, they feel worse.
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This is like a contraction. But what I have discovered is when you help support people, they discover that with every contraction there is an expansion. So if they learn to stay with these sensations just momentarily long enough, it will contract but then it will expand. And the rhythm between contraction and expansion, that gives people the sense of, “Oh my God, I’m going to be able to master this!” you know?
“Pendulation is the rhythm between contraction and expansion . . . titration is about carefully touching into the smallest drop of survival-based arousal.”
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So, again, when they get the sense or rhythm of contraction/expansion, it needn’t then become threatening. It just becomes, “Oh, okay, I’m contracting, and now I’m expanding.”
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The fourth step, which is really the first, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, is what I call “titration.” And by titrating, by just dosing one small amount of experience at a time, this creates an increase in stability, resilience, and reorganization of the nervous system. So titration is about carefully touching into the smallest drop of survival-based arousal.
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Dr. Buczynski: So sort of like a homeopathic approach to trauma? A homeopathic dose level of approaching body experiences?
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Dr. Levine: Yes! Yes, that’s it! Yes, that is a really good analogy – and it may be more than just an analogy. You know, we have a number of homeopaths, particularly in the European and South American trainings – and, you know, they get it, they really get it; you know, the idea of the smallest amount of stimulus that get the body engaged in its own self-defense mechanisms.
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Then the fifth step is to provide corrective experiences by helping them have active experience that supplants or contradicts the passive response of collapse and helplessness. So as they recover active responses, they can feel empowered – they develop active defensive responses.
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“As they recover active responses, they can feel empowered – they develop active defensive responses.” When animals are in the immobility response, when they are in the shut-down state, it’s normally time-limited.
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Continued in response section.
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