Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers have many traditional and alternative treatment options available to help them cope.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers have many traditional and alternative treatment options available to help them cope with the disorder. Normal “fight or flight” response to danger is different for people who must cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. After a traumatic event, or one of physical harm, PTSD may develop. It can even happen when witnessing such an event. PTSD is commonly associated with those who have witnessed or taken part in war. However, a number of other factors could cause a patient to develop PTSD, including the effects from rape, torture, or mugging, after kidnapping or child abuse, from train, car, or plane accidents, or even as a result of natural disasters.
There are many possible causes for why some people may develop PTSD, while others who witnessed or were apart of the same event do not. There may be genetic components, involving the stathmin (fear memory) protein, gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), which controls the fear response, or the 5-HTTLPR gene, which is in charge of serotonin levels in the brain. The amygdala, in the brain, which is responsible for memory, learning, and emotion, and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is involved in problem-solving and judgment, may also be related to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. There could also be other physiological and psychological factors in play. Environmental issues, such as head injury, mental illness, or childhood trauma can also contribute to PTSD.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder range from flashbacks and nightmares to avoidance symptoms, including emotional numbness, depression, anxiety, and memory issues. Situations that remind the patient of the original traumatic events can trigger strong emotions and frightening PTSD thoughts.1 For patients, marital, familial and occupational relationships can suffer as a result of the effects of the disorder, and some patients may develop substance abuse issues in an attempt to cope with the effects.
PTSD in the Military
The VA has helped veterans cope with military-related PTSD for many years, and they have a variety of treatment programs available to those who need them.2 In fact, 1 in 8 returning soldiers from Iraq have been found to have PTSD symptoms. Less than half of those who had symptoms sought help, according to a report. Other names for post-traumatic stress disorder are “shell shock” or “combat fatigue.” Veterans can have irritability, recurrent memories, and concentration and sleep difficulties after the event and following their return.3
PTSD Traditional Treatments
Traditional therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder includes psychotherapy (“talk therapy”). Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), with aspects such as exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, and stress inoculation training can be helpful. Patients can learn to face and control their fears, make sense of the traumatic memories, learn how to cope with guilt or shame, and reduce anxiety. They can also develop skills in controlling anger and relaxation, and change their diet, exercise, and sleep habits. Antidepressants, such as Zoloft and Paxil, may be used for people with PTSD. These medications do, however, carry side effects, such as nausea, headache, sleep interference, sexual problems, and agitation. Sometimes, especially in adolescents and young adults, antidepressants can increase suicidal thoughts.4
“Triggers” are what primarily cause those who suffer from PTSD to have a reaction. A common trigger might be a loud noise, even from something as mundane as a car backfiring, which could remind the patient of the traumatic event and “trigger” their memories and fear. Sights, smells, sounds, or even thinking about the traumatic event could all be triggers. Even an association with the event, such as the weather being the same, could upset the patient.
For every memory, some distinctive sights or smells are mentally attached. In the case of PTSD, the brain does not properly process the memory, which means that, when the patient perceives one of the associated sights or smells, they are sent into the same reaction as though the traumatic event were in the present. This is why trigger warnings exist, as they will give patients of PTSD a chance to be aware of and avoid common triggers.5
There may be some complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for PTSD, such as natural products, mind-body medicine, manipulative and body-based therapy, whole medical systems (such as Eastern medicine), and additional alternative practices. Acupuncture, meditation, massage, and relaxation techniques could all benefit patients with PTSD.6 Some may also wish to incorporate therapy dogs, art and music therapy, and outdoor retreats. Alternatives can be combined with traditional therapies.7 Some herbal and homeopathic supplements may reduce stress and anxiety.8 For patients with physical pain, such as soldiers, chiropractic care may be beneficial. There is a link between back pain and PTSD, and chiropractors are trained in relieving these issues. Chronic pain can deplete “psychological reserves”.9 Massage could also help reduce stress and increase serotonin. Bodywork, such as massage or Reiki, may reduce physical pain as well.10
Find out more information regarding chiropractic treatment for mood disorders