Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome – Emotional and Physical Connections

It seems more of life’s circumstances generate more stress responses in individuals these days. One can speculate the cause of theses stresses, but the end result is the effects that it takes on individuals or in larger concentrations; communities, countries and nations or the wide spread global influences.But what is post- traumatic stress syndrome and how does it affect an individual?Post traumatic stress come from the inability to cope from a witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event. The term seemed to be most prevalent in post war veterans but in the current world we face we don’t have to be in times of war to feel the effects of PTSD. As violence and general unrest becomes more of a standard verses an exception, more individuals are being exposed to all kinds of stress such as motor vehicle accidents, public threats, sexual and physical crimes, global and environmental treats, victimization of civil liberties, social unrest and injustices,etc.Some of the side effects of PTSD is the inability to cope, nightmares, night terrors, flashbacks, memories of the event, depression and a loss of interest in life, isolation and avoidance, depression, outburst of anger, feeling startled easily, difficult with memory and concentration, change in eating and sleeping habits.What happens to the body when an individual has experienced something traumatic?The body is designed to be an efficient machine. It has set within in a vast network of self-preservation mechanics. This network is the nervous system. Within this system is two main parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The central nervous system contains the brain and the spinal cord, whereas the peripheral nervous system connects the CNS to the extremities (arms and legs) and the organs. The PNS serves as a communication relay between the brain and the extremities. The PNS is divided into the somatic nervous system (which creates voluntary movement) and the autonomic nervous system (which controls involuntary functions within the organ such as heart rate, digestion and respiration).Within the autonomic nervous system there is sympathetic nervous system:commonly referred to the “Fight of flight response”. It allows the body to prepare itself to take on the impending stressor or engage the muscles to flee impending danger. Either way the body is aroused to prepare to engage in either response in order to cope with the impending situation. The other division of the PNS is the sympathetic nervous system ( CN), which is the recovery phase of the two divisions. It is referred to as ‘rest and digest” or “feed and breed”.When a stress response occurs in the body it engages this system in order to generate action or rest dependent on what phase occurs within the nervous system. The body finds within these systems a state of homeostasis or balance. It can be thrown out of balance if it doesn’t maintain this state of equilibrium, such as in the case of a repetitive insult to the nervous system which doesn’t allow for the recovery phase to enter back into. Such terns as “burn out” or chronic fatigue” can occur. With post- traumatic stress syndrome a loop of memories can occur based on a trigger of a current observation, sight, sound, sensation etc. that transports the memory to the original traumatic incident. Even though the body’s mechanics is engineered to perform at optimum homeostasis (a kind of check and balance in the body), it doesn’t always mean that it does. Our primitive brains have long evolved to deal with on- going threats, be it that now, instead of having wild animals chase after us in the “fight or flight” response”,it is grid-lock among other things. This shift of modern innovation has created a higher and more demanding pace of life for most of us. When we can’t cope our bodies suffer the on-going loop of stress which plays into heavy consequences of our body, and thus our quality of lives. The over flowing repercussions of this can be endless; mental and physical health issues, social phobias,social disruptions of home and family life, disruptions of work and occupational productivity etc., allowing for loss of income for individuals and their employers. According to The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease Survey estimates that mental disease, including stress-related disorders, will be the second leading cause of disabilities by the year 2020. We need to rethink about the impact of what PTSD has on our lives and the degree in which it overflows into other aspects of our everyday.What happens to the body when in the “fight or flight” mode? Our bodies, as implied, ready itself to take action whether by responding to defend our position of attack/assault or by taking the action to flee or escape the threat. In order to do either tactic the body needs to prepare itself in order to initiate this order. Chemicals are released such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. This creates a change in the body to respond by increasing our breath, distributing the blood flow from the less important digestion into muscles and the limbs. The eyes take in the threat by this reaction as dilation which allows focus and attention to the impending threat. Our body is now in a state of readiness. This takes place as a state of survival, without this impulse we would not have been able to survive as we know it. This is a primal state, a state of self -preservation that is built into our wiring. As in the state of preparedness, we also have the ability to calm ourselves and return to state of balance after the perceived or actual threat is gone. This allows for a natural state of coping taking place in the nervous system. With this affect in the body the muscles contract (tighten) ready to initiate movement.What happens if the body stays in the “fight or flight” mode for a sustained time? As a part of the preparedness of “fight or flight” response hormones are released. If not used within the time needed and the body doesn’t coming into a state of balance afterwards hormones can accumulate in the body. This build up can create disorders in the body such headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, inability to absorb food and poor sugar regulation, high blood pressure, depression,chronic fatigue and other auto immune disorders. We all know about the dangers of stress now we know the immunology and physiology around this statement.The emotional component of PTSD is mentioned indirectly with the prior mentioned side effects, but how does the emotions influence the body? We answered that when we looked at the mechanism of the nervous system by explaining what happens when being engaged with the “fight or flight” response. But let’s go a bit further with the idea of emotions and how they can have an impression on the physical body. The physical body creates a blue print from past and current emotions. Because of the creation of the nervous system we have the mechanism to function. It is in the chronic (long standing) and traumatic events that catapult us into a crisis mode in the body which cannot handle this. The body responds as the outward expression of these experiences. In basic anatomy and physiology muscle all have a function.This function is expressed of dynamic movement. Impairment can take place not just on a physical level, but an emotional level as well. All muscles have within this blue print the memory of movement. This memory can sometime get lost in transit by injury, trauma or disease. But the memory is there. Muscles all have cell and nerve bundles that comprise part of the network of communication and mobility. These cells and nerves contain the memory. This memory can be emotional. If you kick an animal it remembers the trauma not just in the flinching of anticipation of the trauma once provoked but it also within the muscle. The stress factor is not just purely in the physical or just in the emotional; hence the coined term simply stated: “body mind connection”. For, if memories are stored in the body, then it gives “body work” a whole new meaning of discovery. Once we tap into the physical body we are not just touching the physical abnormalities or disorders but something underlying deeper waiting to be extradited.So now that one identifies what is PTSD and what its symptoms are and how it effects the body how does an individual recovery?Receiving support whether professionally or from family, friends or a group, spiritual guidance etc., is a step in the right direction. All though it is difficult to overcome some biases one may have about asking for help or needing intervention, it is highly recommended. Support allows an individual to know they don’t need to suffer in silence or shame. There are a number of organizations and professional specifically able to handling persons suffering with PTSD.Getting back to a routine is helpful as well as staying physically active as well as the suggestion of getting back into nature.Know this is something that happen to you but it doesn’t have to identify who you are.