Monday, December 27, 2010

Journaling: A Tool to Help Treat PTSD

The AW2 Blog, the official blog of the Army's Wounded Warrior Program, recent ran an article about Journaling as a Tool to Treat PTSD.

"Journaling provides a vehicle which allows servicemembers and Veterans to begin to draw out their feelings and memories without the perceived risk of speaking about them," said author Michael Cain (no relation to the actor), who teaches journaling on a volunteer basis at Fort Bragg.

Cain's workbook for the course is not yet publicly available, but he said on his own blog that he hopes it will be more widely available soon.

Cain was also interviewed back in October by the Fayetteville Observer, where he says that journaling is not, as it is so often characterized, only for women. "The point is to get it out of their head rather than to have someone analyze it," Cain told the Observer. "As long as it's locked in their brain, it's going to fester."

Have you tried writing a journal (or even a blog) to explore your feelings about PTSD and your trauma? We'd love to hear your about it. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rutgers Researchers Find Key to Gender Differences in Processing Stress

Women are more sensitive to stress, and therefore more likely to suffer from depression or PTSD, because of slight differences in male and female brains, according to new research.

From a recent Rutgers University press release:

Tracey Shors, a professor of psychology in Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, has uncovered a clue to why men and women handle stress so differently in the brains of male and female rats.

The research, published Dec. 1 in the Journal of Neuroscience, has implications for the way stress-related disorders are treated in men and women.

Shors and her co-authors, graduate student Lisa Maeng and post-doctoral scholar Jaylyn Waddell, examined two brain regions important in learning and stress, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala, a small almond-shaped structure located deep within the brain, senses stressful situations. The prefrontal cortex, in the front of the brain, is necessary for higher cognitive functions.

“These two structures are intimately connected to one another,” Shors said. “Therefore, we examined whether they communicate with one another to influence learning after stress.”

The researchers exposed male and female rats to stress, and then presented them with an associative learning task. During training, the rats learned to associate one event with another that occurred later in time. They played a tone and later stimulated the rats’ eyelids to elicit a blink.  After the stimulus was taken away, most of the male rats responded to the tone by blinking on their own. Most of the females, however, did not blink in response to the tone, indicating that they had failed to learn that association. But the research also contained a neurological surprise for Shors, Maeng and Waddell.

When Shors and her colleagues disrupted the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in some of the females, those females were able to learn the association.

“This wasn’t true for males," Shors said. "So, males and females are using different brain structures to learn after stress. In other words, females can learn after stress if the prefrontal cortex can’t ‘talk’ to the amygdala. From this, we conclude that males and females can use different brain circuits to learn after stressful life events.”

Read more here

Monday, December 20, 2010

Research: Stress (and its damage) Can Be Passed on Genetically

According to new research, some of the effects of PTSD could possibly be passed on to your offspring, or even make your children more likely to develop PTSD if they encounter their own traumatic events. 

A study of Holocaust survivors found that their children were more susceptible to PTSD because the bodies of both parents and children generated lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that helps shut down the stress response.

The Independent has much more on this research in a recent article:

Stressed out? It could be in your genes

Friday, December 17, 2010

Older Vets with PTSD May Be More Prone to Dementia

According to new research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, "The incidence and prevalence of dementia is greater in veterans with PTSD."

 While the research proved no causality (in other words, it does not suggest that PTSD causes dementia), it does suggest that properly treating veterans with PTSD should include screening for the onset of dementia as they get older. As the authors write in the abstract, "Because PTSD is so common in veterans, this association has important implications for veteran care."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Aromatherapy, Yoga & PTSD

In addition to therapy and medications, there are numerous things people can do to help ease the symptoms from their PTSD. Learning to relax is vitally important, and two ways to help you relax are yoga and aromatherapy.

Over at the site, certified aromatherapist Robin Barnette offers a few ideas on using aromatherapy to relax and reduce anxiety.

Smell has been said to be a tremendous gateway to memory and the right aromas really can help you get to a good place in your head. Check out here recommendations here.

How have aromatherapy, yoga or other techniques helped you? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Florida Declares PTSD Awareness Week

This is PTSD Awareness Week in Florida. The state has the second-highest concentration on US veterans in the country.

Florida Governor Signs PTSD Awareness Week Proclamation

Monday, December 13, 2010

10% of LGBT youth may have PTSD

A major new study of LGBT youth reveals that 30 percent may suffer from mental disorders, with 10 percent suffering from PTSD.

The University of Illinois at Chicago study examined 246 "ethnically diverse 16- to 20-year-old LGBT youth in Chicago" to reveal which ones had experienced "major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide attempts and conduct disorder."

Other revelations: 15 percent of the youths met the criteria for severe depression; 6 percent had attempted suicide; and bisexual youths were less likely to have psychological problems.

You can read more about this study at the link above.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

David Lynch, Transcendental Meditation & PTSD

Famed filmmaker David Lynch is about to launch a new project called Operation Warrior Wellness, which will aim to teach Transcendental Meditation to 10,000 veterans to help combat their PTSD. There's no real information about it online yet, but it officially launches on December 13 with a fundraiser featuring Lynch, Clint Eastwood, George Lucas, Dr. Oz, and others. Tonic (a news site I often write for) has an interview with Lynch about meditation and how it can help PTSD, and the Huffington Post has a much more in-depth article about the entire project and how it began.

From what we've read, Lynch's foundation will be offering scholarships or grants to help people attend the $1,500 workshops for as little as $750 or $375. We'll post more when we hear it.

Read our previous story on Lynch here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Newsweek asks, "Do the Taliban Get PTSD?"

In a headline sure to draw attention, Newsweek asks, Do the Taliban Get PTSD?

It's an over-simplified question, but the truth, as Newsweek itself points out, is that after decades of non-stop war and aggression, just about everyone in Afghanistan probably has some form of psychological trauma:

Combat-related mental problems are a fact of life for just about everyone in Afghanistan, of course. According to Dr. Suraya Dalil, Afghanistan’s health minister, 60 percent of the population is suffering from mental-health problems, thanks not only to the war but to the country's extreme poverty and woefully inadequate health care. "Mental illness among the people is as common as malaria," says Mullah Mohammad. "It's alarming, but not surprising, that there are so many psychologically disturbed people in Afghanistan," says Dr. Wahab Yousafzai, a Pakistani psychiatrist who runs training courses for Afghan physicians who work in provincial health-care centers. "Common people feel helpless. Death can come at any minute from U.S. and NATO forces or the Taliban."

We've seen the same in other countries that have experienced war and struggle stretching across multiple generations, such as Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cyprus to name a few.

The main question really isn't the one that Newsweek asks, but how many generations it will take Afghanistan and other countries to cleanse themselves of the pain of trauma.

Monday, December 6, 2010

67% of prostitutes meet criteria for PTSD

Tim Bates, columnist for the Rome Observer, digs up some surprising statistics about prostitution:

"the Council for Prostitution Alternatives, in Portland, Oregon... found that 85 percent of surveyed prostitutes reported a history of sexual abuse in childhood, while 70 percent reported incest. Compare that to estimates of childhood sexual abuse in the general population at anywhere from 15- 38 percent of women and 12-16 percent of men...

"Other statistics ... over half have been raped or beaten by a client, more than three quarters have been physically assaulted while in prostitution and/or have attempted suicide, and that 67 percent meet diagnostic criteria for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."

Bates is arguing that prostitution is hardly a "victimless crime," as many often see it, but tends to involve people who have already been traumatized victimized and makes it likely for the women to be further traumatized at every step.

Crimes against prostitutes are far too often ignored by the police. This is a segment of the population whose trauma almost makes them invisible.

Let's not forget that soldiers aren't the only people with PTSD, and that war takes on many forms.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yoga Nidra and PTSD

Yoga Nidra has been shown to reduce anxiety, create higher quality sleep patterns, promote better physical and mental health, and help people gain control over their fear response. These are all essential tools for helping people learn to deal with their PTSD symptoms.

The Department of Defense has conducted research on Yoga Nidra through a program called iRest offered by the Integrative Restoration Institute, which offers a number of workshops and tutorials around the country. YogaTherapyWeb has an article about iRest here.

If you can't afford an iRest workshop or if you don't have the energy to travel, try the Fearless Nation PTSD Support virtual retreat in Second Life (pictured). There's no cost to participate, and you can do it from the safety and comfort of your home.

Study: Crohn's Disease May Cause PTSD

I have a few friends with Crohn's disease -- the often-disabling inflammable bowel disorder --  so a new study really struck me.

The study followed 600 people in Switzerland with Crohn's disease for 18 months. A full 19% of these people were found to have the criteria for PTSD. And those people with both Crohn's and PTSD had the worst of both worlds -- they were 13 times more likely to have had their Crohn's symptoms get worse in that 18-month period, possibly due to hormonal and immune system responses.

Crohn's causes severe pain and constant diarrhea, leaving patients with a constant state of panic about their pending symptoms. This never-ending stress is what can trigger PTSD in some patients.

The doctors behind the study, which appeared Dec. 2 in the journal Frontline Gastroenterology, say that Crohn's can not be cured, but PTSD can -- not necessarily true, but it is more treatable -- so treating the two conditions together could help reduce the symptoms from Crohn's disease.

Read more here:

Study Suggests Link Between Crohn's Disease and PTSD