June is PTSD Awareness Month and all of us here at Project Resiliency and Raven Drum are sharing our work and commitment to helping veterans who are suffering after combat. There are so many new effective treatments that are helping soldiers come home. We can’t allow even 1 of our warriors fall to suicide. PTSD is treatable. It is not a life-long sentence of suffering.
One of the most cutting edge treatments in 2014 is coming from the research and teaching of Bessel van der Kolk. The foundation of his work grows from the premise that accessing trauma through the memories of the body will allow trauma to release in a conscious and profound way. Since our work here at Project Resiliency focuses on Mind Body Healing we thought it would be meaningful for our readers to learn more about how the the body holds and effects symptoms of PTSD. Below is an excerpt from an in depth article called A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD by Jeneen Interlandi posted on NY Times.com.
Trauma effects all of us, veterans and civilians alike. Finding new and effective ways to treat trauma is so crucial to the growth and evolution of our world.
Thank you for Reading!
A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD
by Jeneen Interlandi – May 22, 2014
“Everybody hunch their backs forward and droop their heads, like this,” he said, demonstrating. “Now try saying: ‘Oh, I’m feeling great! I’m very happy today!’ ” The audience laughed. “See, it’s impossible to feel happy in that position.” To drive the point home, he asked us to do the opposite: sit upright, assume cheerful expressions and then try to feel bad.
The mind follows the body, he said.
Trauma victims, van der Kolk likes to say, are alienated from their bodies by a cascade of events that begins deep in the brain with an almond-shaped structure known as the amygdala. When faced with a threat, the amygdala triggers a fight-or-flight response, which includes the release of a flood of hormones. This response usually persists until the threat is vanquished. But if the threat isn’t vanquished — if we can’t fight or flee — the amygdala, which can be thought of as the body’s smoke detector, keeps sounding the alarm. We keep producing stress hormones, which in turn wreak havoc on the rest of our bodies. It’s similar to what happens in chronic stress, except that in traumatic stress, the memories of the traumatic event invade patients’ subconscious thoughts, sending them back into fight-or-flight mode at the slightest provocation.
Therapists and patients refer to this as being “reactivated.” In the short term, patients avoid the pain it causes by “dissociating.”
That is, they take leave of their bodies, so much so that they often cannot describe their own physical sensations. This happens a lot in therapy, van der Kolk says.
In the long term, they become experts in self-numbing. They use food, exercise, work — or worse, drugs and alcohol — to stifle physical discomfort. The longer they do this, the more difficult it becomes to remain present in any given moment. “That’s why the guy at the end of ‘The Hurt Locker’ is so utterly incapable of playing with his kid,” van der Kolk says.
The goal of treatment should be to resolve this disconnect.
“If we can help our patients tolerate their own bodily sensations, they’ll be able to process the trauma themselves,” he says. In his own patients, particularly those suffering from treatment-resistant PTSD, yoga has proved an especially good way to do this. So has emotional freedom technique, or tapping. With a therapist’s guidance, the patient taps various acupressure points with his or her own fingertips. If done correctly, it can calm the sympathetic nervous system and prevent the patient from being thrown into fight-or-flight mode. Ultimately, van der Kolk supports almost any therapy that involves paying careful attention to patients’ physiological states, like psychomotor therapy, or getting up and moving around through theater, dance and even karate. For patients with acute PTSD from isolated traumatic memories (think car accidents or single-episode assaults), van der Kolk is a fan of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or E.M.D.R., in which a therapist wiggles fingers back and forth across the patient’s field of vision and the patient tracks the fingers while “holding in mind” the traumatic memory. Proponents say the technique enables patients to process their traumas so that they pass into memories and stop invading the present.”