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PTSD, the good news, it's not your fault!

September 1, 2017

 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a debilitating mental disorder that follows experiencing or witnessing an extremely traumatic, tragic, or terrifying event. PTSD was until recently only classified as an Anxiety Disorder. As it's now more accurately associated with other mood states (for example, depression) combined with angry or reckless behavior rather than anxiety alone. With those additional factors, PTSD is now reclassified in a new category, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders

 

PTSD includes four different types of symptoms: 

1. Living the traumatic event (also called re-experiencing or intrusion); 

2. Avoiding situations that are reminders of the event; 

3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings; 

4. And feeling keyed up (also called hyper-arousal, hyper-vigilant or over-reactive to situations). 

 

Most people experience some of these symptoms after a traumatic event, so PTSD is not diagnosed unless all four

 

types of symptoms last for at least a month and cause significant distress or problems with day-to-day functioning.

 

The human condition sadly includes traumatic

experiences from a variety of causes. Traumatic experiences go as far back as time and include attacks by saber tooth tigers, tribal conflicts, wars or twenty-first-century terrorists. These events likely led to similar psychological responses of survivors, and studies now show these reactions were written into a person's DNA and passed to future generations. 

 

Intergenerational Trauma is the idea that serious trauma can affect the children and grandchildren of those who had the first-hand traumatic experience. What’s new is – thanks to the emerging field of Epigenetics, science is discovering that trauma changes the expression of the genes and that expression is being passed down to future generations through more than simply learned behaviors. 

 

As medicine becomes more sophisticated and technology allows us to study the different processes of the body more in depth, we are able to see the effects physiological trauma poses to the body. When a traumatic event occurs, the human body secretes different chemicals consistent with the fight or flight response that imprint the event on the DNA without changing the DNA, acting as an expression of the code, much like muscle memory. This expression or reaction is “recorded” in the genes and passed down to further generations. Simply put you react to situations in much the same way your great great grandfather reacted to a traumatic event. It is also theorized that your ability to process this information is based on your genetic code as well, completely. 

 

Literary accounts also offer descriptions of what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, authors including Homer (The Iliad), William Shakespeare (Henry IV), and Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities) wrote about traumatic experiences and the symptoms that followed such events. To understand the symptoms, one must understand how the human brain processes information and events then adapts to those "lessons learned" from the experience. 

 

The relationship between sleep, dreams, and memory is still somewhat of a mystery. Most brain activity is automated as we say, the brain runs on autopilot, but this doesn't mean that we are automatons or that we are largely unconscious of the reasons we do the things we do. 

 

The conscious YOU uses a minimal amount of bandwidth of the brain, to the point that even our most important and personal decisions – such as choice of spouse, where to live, or occupation are directed by brain mechanisms of which we are unaware. Brushing one's teeth, walking, opening a door, are examples of the mundane tasks that are automatic and performed without thought.  We keep our mental storage, much like RAM, in a computer to address processes that take complicated thought or those required for survival.

 

This means that everything we experience and most importantly how we experience or understand these experiences relies on forces for which we have no control.  As I stated above, the “traumatic circumstances” are recorded by the brain in High Definition (HD) Video, with vibrant colors and superb audio, even smells, emotions leading to realistic memories that the brain attempts to understand, file, and process. We then as human beings consolidate both short-term and long-term memory, adapting to that experience and what “we’ve learned” from the experience to avoid another traumatic experience. 

 

The human body is an amazing organism, it cleans itself, heals itself, and warns you when there is danger; its number one objective is to stay alive. So humans are always adapting to the information provided and reacting appropriately to possible danger. 

 

Our imprinted thoughts and experiences are the unconscious voice that act as a warning to upcoming unsafe events based on experience. To quote the great Yogi Berra "it's like Deja Vu all over again". 

 

For trauma survivors, though, nightmares are a common problem. Along with flashbacks and unwanted memories, nightmares are one of the ways in which a trauma survivor may relive the trauma for months or years after the event. To that end, the classic symptoms of PTSD include frequent panic attacks in response to triggers that keep a person always on the edge and physically and mentally stressed out, disturbed sleep, and recurring nightmares. This is the unconscious brain interrupting the conscious brain processes based on situations, feelings, smells, genetics or just because of something we don’t understand, with a warning we do not understand, resulting in the classic symptomology. However, again for reasons out of our control, it keeps playing the same scene until it resolves the problem so we can learn from it and escape further danger. 

 

Then at night during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM), portion of the sleep cycle, the brain tries to sort and file the information it experienced, and based on several factors, not in your control, the dreams come as the brain attempts to sort the incident and adapt. 

In short, the brain does not know how to file traumatic events. If the event conflicts with your morals, religious upbringing, peer pressure your computer (the brain) doesn't know how to file this information. So the brain keeps bringing up the incidents, so the host (your conscious self) can provide guidance on how to file the information. This is where counseling and group therapy, as a resolution to PTSD therapy is important and necessary for finding the best place or places to file the information in your memory. The factors inhibiting the filing of these events are written in the DNA, muscle memory, religious upbringing, values, morals and sheer magnitude of the event.  

 

Much like a computer, the brain keeps processing the information until it resolves the problem. The brain will continue to process and find a resolution regardless of the amount of time it takes. 

 

There are five stages of sleep: four NREM (non-rapid eye movement) stages marked from 1 to 4 and a fifth stage called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that is associated with dreaming. Stages 3 and 4 represent deep, slow-wave states of sleep, where the brain switches off almost completely and the heart rate and breathing decrease considerably. These states are restorative and refreshing. The four NREM and the REM stages occur in cycles throughout the period of sleep.

 

The brain is most active during REM sleep and most dreaming is thought to occur during this stage. Numerous studies have shown that using marijuana before bed reduces REM sleep. Researchers believe this is why marijuana users report fewer dreams.

  

During the night, the brain cycles through 5 different stages of sleep, spending the most time in deep sleep (or slow-wave sleep) and REM sleep. The amount of time in these two stages are closely related. In fact, studies show that marijuana lengthens the time the brain spends in deep sleep, which leads to less REM sleep, which results in fewer dreams leading to anxiety, allowing the body to recharge and heal. Besides easing insomnia, marijuana seems to have a wide range of effects on sleep.

 

This is because chemicals in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, actually mimic the activity of chemicals found naturally in the brain to stimulate sleep.

 

These chemicals and their biological pathways make up the body’s Endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating sleep, among other things.

 

Ingesting THC or marijuana before bed also appears to reduce the density of rapid eye movements during REM sleep. Interestingly, less REM density has been linked to more restful sleep, which is important in the healing process 

 

According to several studies, marijuana has been found to both induce sleep and increase the duration of Stage 4 sleep. These effects improve the overall quality of sleep in an individual. 

 

Cannabis or high THC compounds inhibit the dream state, reducing anxiety related symptomology, stress, and depression. THC allows the person ingesting it, to reach Stage 3-4 of sleep allowing the body and mind to recharge. 

 

The human body metabolizes cannabis and has receptor sites that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain. neurotransmitters regulating and processing every action in the body and brain. Cannabinoids act as the air traffic controller of the body, coordinating how the body allocates its resources, to heal itself and react to all internal and external stimuli. 

 

The one takeaway for people affected by PTSD is how they

react and process traumatic incidents that are out of their control. People with PTSD have about as much control on how they react to a problem, as they do over the foods they like. 

 

What is also important to note is, this natural product has no side effects and has been very successful in giving those that suffer from PTSD an affordable, natural way to reshape their health and life. 

 

     

 

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