2009 06 08 Tracy Latz

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: What Is It & What Can Be Done About It?

Dr. Tracy Latz, M.D., M.S. is a respected, board-certified, practicing integrative psychiatrist who has worked in the past “in the trenches” in a regional state psychiatric hospital and in local county mental health center systems in North Carolina as well as in community hospital settings. She has done both inpatient and outpatient work with the seriously mentally ill. Dr. Latz received her bachelor degree in Biology from Wake Forest University, a masters degree in Immunobiology from Georgetown University, and her medical degree from Wake Forest University Medical School/Bowman Gray School of Medicine. She is now in solo private integrative psychiatric practice in a suburb of Charlotte, NC in Mooresville, NC. She has written a landmark article on PTSD/Dissociative Disorders in a peer-reviewed journal, co-authored 2 books on personal transformation, recorded 2 meditation CDs to assist others with creating inner peace, filmed self-help integrative medicine videos, and has contributed to or been interviewed by many mainstream media outlets including CNN, Good Housekeeping, SELF, Glamour, AOL Health, Woman’s Day, Fitness, Whole Living, and Health – to name a few. You can find out more about Dr. Latz at www.shiftyourlife.com

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can affect anyone who has experienced a trauma that is outside of a person’s usual life experience. In order to develop PTSD, a traumatic event must be experienced by you first-hand or the traumatic event may have involved another person that is witnessed by you. During this type of traumatic event, you think that your life or others’ lives are in danger. You may feel intensely afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening around you or to you.

Events that may induce PTSD in some people include: combat or military exposure, child sexual or physical abuse, terrorist attacks, physical or sexual assault, serious industrial or motor vehicle accidents, or natural disasters, such as a fire, tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption, hurricane, flood, mudslide or earthquake. After the event, you may feel frightened, confused, or angry. If these feelings don’t go away or worsen over time, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may begin to disrupt your life, your relationships, and make it difficult to continue with your daily activities or productivity at school or at work.

Almost all people who go through a traumatic event in their life have some anxiety symptoms immediately following the trauma. However, only some people will develop PTSD. It isn’t clear why some people develop PTSD and others do not develop the disorder. How likely you are to get PTSD appears to depend on many things:

How intense and long-lasting the trauma was

If someone close to you died or were hurt in the trauma

How close you were to where the traumatic event took place

How much you felt in control of the events

How much help and support you received after the event occurred

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the initial traumatic event; however, some people do not develop symptoms until months or years later. Symptoms may also come and go over many years. If symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your school, work or home life, you probably have PTSD.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD? There are 4 primary types of PTSD symptoms:

1. Reliving the event through Flashbacks and Intrusive Memories (Re-Experiencing Symptoms): Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time which may cause you to feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may have nightmares of the event. You may even dissociate and feel like you’re going through the event again… as if you were transported back in time and you re-experience/act out the event again in the moment of fear and horror while people around you in the present are wondering what on earth is going on. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a triggera smell, noise or something you see that causes you to rapidly recall and relive the event.

2. Avoidance Behaviors: You may try to avoid events (crowds), situations (movies, specific places that seem like where the trauma occurred) or people that may trigger memories of the traumatic event. You might even avoid talking or thinking about the event, even to the degree of refusing to seek out help or therapy to deal with the event because it would mean talking about it.

3. Numbing Feelings: When feelings (fear, anger, sadness, etc.) become overwhelming, a common coping mechanism is to stuff all feelings deep inside and become numb to any feeling. By stuffing feelings we can also attempt to avoid the memories of the fear we once felt. However, it is also difficult to have any intimate or loving relationship when we have stuffed our feelings because we can not pick and choose which feelings to stuff or numb. We will numb our sense of love, compassion and joy along with our feelings of fear, anger, and sadness or grief. We can lose our sense of passion over our previously enjoyable life activities which can lead to depression. We may even stuff the memories of the trauma along with the feelings; this is known as psychogenic amnesia.

4. Hypervigilance or Hyperarousal: You may become irritable, jittery, with mood swings (anger or hostility) that are reactive to a sense of hypervigilance (always being on guard to sense for degree of safety in your environment). Often you will develop sleep issues (insomnia), poor concentration, or an over-developed startle reflex or response to loud sounds or sudden movements around you.

Other Common Problems Associated with PTSD:

a. Substance Abuse: Alcohol, prescription drugs or illicit drugs may be used as a crutch to attempt to induce sleep or to numb feelings in order to avoid memories.

b. Feelings of Hopelessness, Despair, Depression and Self-Injurious or Suicidal Thoughts: There is a high incidence of significant depression with long-standing PTSD that is untreated.

c. Employment Problems: PTSD can affect ability to maintain focus and concentration in the workplace. Anger impulse issues due to emotional hyperarousal can also cause difficulty in the workplace.

d. Relationship Problems Including Divorce and Violence: Isolation, irritability and numbing of feelings can wreak havoc in any intimate relationship. Hyperarousal symptoms along with potential dissociation, intense anger and hostility can lead to poor anger impulse control and possible violent actions in the heat of the moment.

e. Physical Symptoms: ‘Body memories’ may occur where the person experiences body sensations or pains that were present during the past traumatic event. ‘Migraine headaches’, gastrointestinal issues, panic attack symptoms, or other acute stress symptoms may also be related to PTSD flare-ups when a triggering event occurs.

Treatment is available for PTSD!

There is no safety in silence! When you have PTSD, dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may have felt it safer to keep your feelings bottled up. But treatment can help you get better.

There are good treatments available for PTSD that are very effective:

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) appears to be one of the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. There are different types of cognitive behavioral therapies such as cognitive therapy and exposure therapy.

2. A similar kind of therapy called EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is also used with good effects by trained professionals for PTSD. This type of therapy assists with dealing with the overwhelming emotions associated with traumatic memories or triggering situations.

3. Medications can be effective too. A type of non-addictive, anti-anxiety medication known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) (which is also used for depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder) is effective for PTSD. Non-addictive sleep medication can also assist with improving sleep-wake cycles which alone can rapidly diminish anxiety and hypervigilance during the day.

4. Relaxation, Guided Meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique, and Mindfulness Practices have also been shown to be very helpful in decreasing anxiety and assisting with coping with stress and hyperarousal symptoms. We will address some of these in another post in the near future; we have used these tools and techniques to assist hundreds of people in transforming anxiety due to past traumas. These tools assist with dealing with issues of feeling unlovable, guilt, shame, inadequacy, powerlessness, anger, resentment, abandonment, loss of self-definition, lack of self-love, heartbreak, disappointment, fear of the unknown, and stress. We finally wrote out all of our tools and techniques to reach more people after multiple requests during seminars that we make them more widely available to the public. You may find them written out in easy-to-use fashion in our book “SHIFT: 12 Keys to Shift Your Life” or in the book “Shift: A Woman’s Guide to Transformation”.  You may also download the meditations written out in these books at digstation.com if your concentration level due to anxiety is too low to read a book.

Isn’t it time you allowed your great inner Light to shine brightly again?

Loads of Love & Light to you!

Tracy Latz, M.D., M.S. along with Marion Ross, Ph.D. (Together they are The Shift Doctors)

**The Shift Doctors (Tracy Latz, M.D. & Marion Ross, Ph.D.) are available for keynote talks, classes, events or for seminars (1/2 day or up to 2 day) on personal transformation, team-building, motivation, anger management, intuitive development, or collaboration for private groups, conferences, corporations or corporate events. Contact them at info@shiftyourlife.com or find out more about them at www.shiftyourlife.com .

    3 thoughts on “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: What Is It & What Can Be Done About It?

    January 6, 2013

    Two suggestions:

    Heartmath HRV training and Neuroptimal Neurofeedback.

    January 12, 2013

    We are big fans of Heartmath as we share a common goal of getting people to be more “in their heart” and feeling the power of the Heart Resonance when one is in their ‘Loving Self’ or in a state of “Metta”/ “Being Compassion”. :)

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