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How Does Ptsd Affect Physical Health

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How Ptsd And Physical Health Are Related

How PTSD Might Affect Physical Health

There is something unique to having PTSD that puts people at risk for developing physical health problems. A number of theories have been proposed to explain this connection. It has been suggested that a variety of factors interact to increase the risk for physical health problems among people with PTSD.

People with PTSD may engage in more risky and health-compromising behaviors, such as alcohol and drug use. The hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD may also put someone in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Factors like these combine to put tremendous strain and stress on a person’s body, increasing the risk for physical health problems and illness.

What Is The Agenda For Clinical Practice

One agenda for clinical practice is for mental-health workers to increase collaboration with primary and specialty medical care professionals in order to better address this relationship between PTSD and health problems. Medical personnel need to become more aware of the potential harmful effects trauma and PTSD can have on health. Specifically, it is important to screen for PTSD in medical settings. Studies of patients seeking physical-health care show that many have been exposed to trauma and experience posttraumatic stress but have not received appropriate mental-health care. In answer to this problem, it might be useful to integrate PTSD treatment services with medical care services.

Trauma Ptsd And Our Emotions

Trauma and PTSD also take emotional tolls on our body. Emotional symptoms of trauma vary from person to person, but can include depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation. Other times, people may seek out conflict or react violently to stressors. This is all linked to our fight or flight response: Some respond with aggression and others flee.

PTSD is also believed to be a result of a traumatic event finally overriding our compensation mechanisms. Compensation by itself is not unhealthy. Some of us may deal with witnessing a traumatic event by helping others affected, for example. When we fail to process traumatic stimuli in a healthy way, though, we are vulnerable to developing PTSD.

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Ptsd Can Make You Avoid Everyday People Places And Things

When it comes to PTSD, many people will start to experience the effects of avoidance in their lives. This means that you will start to actively avoid situations that remind you of the trauma. For example, if you were severely injured in a car accident, you may start to avoid driving or even being in cars. If the traumatic event took place in a certain area, you may feel unable to go near that place. Avoidance can impact your life in a big way as you change your routines of everyday life to work around it.

And it may not just be for physical places: in some cases, avoidance can happen internally as you force yourself to avoid certain thoughts and feelings that cause distress. Avoidance can have a negative effect on your life, causing you to avoid normal situations out of fear.

Physical Effects Of Ptsd

PTSD affects millions of Americans every year  including here in ...

The physical effects of PTSD can be felt anywhere in the body and can include, but arent limited to:

  • Eating problems and digestive troubles
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased heart rate/pounding heart/heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Worsening of existing medical problems
  • Pain
  • Distrust
  • Feeling alone, abandoned

The emotional and physical effects of PTSD can be intense and wearing, making one feel as if he or she is living in a nightmare. The DSM-5 criteria for PTSD warn that it is associated with suicidal ideation and attempts. Therefore, understanding PTSD effects and watching for them in yourself or a loved one can be crucial in getting the necessary help, support, and treatment .

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The Physiological Effects Of Trauma

Dr. Celan explains that trauma sensitizes something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is the bodys central stress response system. You can think of this as the intersection of our central nervous system and endocrine system.

Because trauma impacts the HPA axis, it can affect our hormones, especially adrenaline, , and oxytocin. Trauma makes us more reactive to stressors, and more likely to increase the stress hormone cortisol.

In certain situations, hormones like cortisol are very important. Think: If youre being chased by a wild animal, adrenaline kicks in to help you get out of dangers reach. But when youre not actively in danger, trauma keeps your body in that revved-up state, putting serious mileage on your body.

Cortisol can be toxic when it is chronically high, ultimately leading to increased risks of health conditions such as depression or heart disease, according to Dr. Celan.

Once the stressor is removed, the bodys hormones should respond in kind. The only problem? A body that is exposed to trauma long-term will continue to produce these hormones, which may lead to negative long-term effects on the body, according to Dr. Yasmin Akhunji, an endocrinologist with Paloma Health. This puts you at an increased risk for anxiety, depression, heart disease, sleep disruption, weight gain, and memory/concentration damage.

Cognition And Mood Symptoms Include:

  • Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities

Cognition and mood symptoms can begin or worsen after the traumatic event, but are not due to injury or substance use. These symptoms can make the person feel alienated or detached from friends or family members.

It is natural to have some of these symptoms for a few weeks after a dangerous event. When the symptoms last more than a month, seriously affect ones ability to function, and are not due to substance use, medical illness, or anything except the event itself, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD dont show any symptoms for weeks or months. PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or one or more of the other anxiety disorders.

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What’s The Difference Between A Normal Reaction To A Traumatic Event And Ptsd

People react to experience of trauma in a variety of ways, such as sadness, irritability and confusion. In the immediate aftermath of a major traumatic event most people complain of stress, difficulty concentrating, sleeping or getting along with others. With PTSD, the troubling symptoms worsen, affect social and work functioning, and persist longer than a month. If you or a loved one are struggling to cope with the effects of a trauma it may be useful to seek professional help.

The Physical Effects Of Ptsd

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You might be wondering why we are talking about physical symptoms when discussing a mental health disorder. The truth is, you are a whole human being made up of all your various parts, and these parts work as a system. Your mental health affects your physical health and vice versa.

This is where the physical effects of trauma come in.

People who have experienced trauma and have long term trauma symptoms spend much of their day experiencing high anxiety and tension in the body. Over time, this muscle tension evolves into inflammation and chronic pain.

Being in a constant state of anxiety and tension also affects your digestive system due to high cortisol levels and cytokines, which cause inflammation and increase your risk for developing ulcers and other gastrointestinal difficulties.

The constant flood of stress hormones, tension, anxiety, and increased inflammation also contributes to chronic headaches and migraines.

Left unaddressed, the effects of long term stress and anxiety can lead to long term physical damage and medical issues such as heart disease, stroke, lowered immune system response increasing susceptibility to illness, difficulties with managing a healthy weight, and diabetes, just to name a few.

Stress and anxiety are the number one reported cause of insomnia. When you experience the long term effects of trauma, nightmares, racing thoughts, and stress can be worse at night when there are fewer distractions to otherwise occupy your mind.

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Arousal And Reactivity Symptoms Include:

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or on edge
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having angry outbursts

Arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic events. These symptoms can make the person feel stressed and angry. They may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

You May Experience A Chronic Illness

Its also common for people with PTSD to isolate themselves, engage in far less physical activity and soothe themselves with food and alcohol, said Amit Etkin, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and an investigator at the Palo Alto VA. As a result of these behaviors, they may become overweight or obese, have metabolic disturbances or develop diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

It can age your body tremendously quickly, Etkin said.

Exercise tends to play a huge role in how people feel, so if a person exercises less as a component of PTSD, this can lead to a negative cycle thats hard to break away from.

The less you exercise, the more itll exacerbate your illness and the more it will reinforce the tendency of patients with PTSD to isolate, Etkin said, adding that he often advises patients to force themselves to engage in physical activity. Even if that means just walking around somewhere.

Cardiac issues are a risk, too.

You struggle sleeping

People with PTSD may experience sleep apnea or have difficulty maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.

Insomnia often comes just from the state of anxiety and distress that somebody with PTSD, also somebody with depression, might be experiencing, Etkin said.

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What Are The Effects Of Ptsd And Trauma On The Body

We often think of trauma and PTSD in terms of emotional symptoms, but they take a physical toll on their victims, too. General symptoms include chronic pain, headaches, stomach pain, vomiting, lower back pain and muscle cramps.

Trauma creates deep muscle contractions designed to protect our bodies. In the wild, this is referred to as a fight or flight mechanism, which is a deeply ingrained instinct designed to keep humans and animals alive. If we survive a traumatic encounter, we relieve excess tension through trembling, shaking, and twitching. This helps us process the encounter and face subsequent threats.

Humans, however, have a distinct difference from animals: Our brains are more developed and we have a frontal cortex. Unlike animals, we are capable of reason. Were also sensitive to the stigmatization of our environment: How many times have we been told to get over it or suck it up? In light of these criticisms, were more likely to hold onto our traumatic feelings and thoughts to process at a later date. This upsets our brains delicate balance.

What Are The Effects Of Ptsd

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There are many. They may include disturbing flashbacks, trouble sleeping, emotional numbness, angry outbursts, and feelings of guilt. You might also avoid things that remind you of the event, and lose interest in things that you enjoy.

Symptoms usually start within 3 months of a trauma. But they might not show up until years afterward. They last for at least a month. Without treatment, you can have PTSD for years or even the rest of your life. You can feel better or worse over time. For example, a news report about an assault on television may trigger overwhelming memories of your own assault.

PTSD interferes with your life. It makes it harder for you to trust, communicate, and solve problems. This can lead to problems in your relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. It also affects your physical health. In fact, studies show that it raises your risk of heart disease and digestive disorders.

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Mitigating Traumas Impact On Your Body

Unfortunately, trauma is a part of life, but focusing on a healthy lifestyle and taking care of yourself sends a message to your body that it is safe and nourished. This can help it reset.

Adjust your lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and sleep enough. Sounds easy enough in theory, right? But implementing lifestyle changes can be hard IRL, especially when youre feeling down. You can start by filling your plate with nutritious food and working on getting movement into your day every single day. Try to get at least seven hours of good, solid sleep. Making these actions a priority daily, especially when you dont feel like it, can help your body recalibrate.

Engage in joyous, oxytocin-increasing activities. Dr. Celan recommends regularly participating in activities that can help balance your hormones. You can mitigate trauma-induced body responses by engaging in activities that increase oxytocin and decrease cortisol, she says. For example, hugging people or pets, engaging in compassionate behavior, laughing at a stand-up comedy special or having a warm, relaxing bubble bath are all healthy ways to boost your oxytocin levels.

Dr. Celan also suggests embracing mindfulness meditation, which can actually cause beneficial changes in brain structure and neurochemical release. This is because it triggers the bodys relaxation response.

Roland Bals Approach To Treating Complex Trauma And Ptsd

Roland Bal uses a cognitive and somatic based psycho-therapeutic approach to effectively treat complex trauma and PTSD. His approach focuses on regulating, processing and containing the processes of dissociation, the fight-flight-freeze-please responses and relearning boundaries and vulnerability. He works both online, using audio and video, and offline in his practice in Barcelona. Additionally, his website provides e-books, trauma care guided meditations and online courses.

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Treating Trauma And Ptsd

Treatment for PTSD requires a comprehensive approach dedicated to processing trauma in a healthy way. Victims often find relief using a combination of medications and cognitive behavioral therapy .

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , commonly used to treat depression, are effective in treating some PTSD symptoms. CBT has also been known to help.

CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented therapy. A PTSD sufferer works with a therapist to identify the thoughts that make his or her feelings worse and then process the negative emotions associated with his or her traumatic experience. CBT helps a PTSD sufferer have less fear about his or her memories, while additional group and family therapy can help establish a support system.

Avoidance And Emotional Numbing

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Trying to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event is another key symptom of PTSD.

This usually means avoiding certain people or places that remind you of the trauma, or avoiding talking to anyone about your experience.

Many people with PTSD try to push memories of the event out of their mind, often distracting themselves with work or hobbies.

Some people attempt to deal with their feelings by trying not to feel anything at all. This is known as emotional numbing.

This can lead to the person becoming isolated and withdrawn, and they may also give up pursuing activities they used to enjoy.

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The Benefits Of Exercise For People With Ptsd

Low rates of exercise among people with post-traumatic stress disorder may explain why many people with PTSD have been found to be at high risk for a number of physical health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, pain, and diabetes. There may be several reasons why people with PTSD are less likely to exercise.

Ptsds Effects On Family Friends

The physical and emotional effects of PTSD can impact how someone interacts with people in their lives. Intimacy issues, work issues, emotional difficulties, cognitive changes, physical problems, intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal are effects of PTSD that make life difficult for the person experiencing PTSD as well as family members, friends, and others.

Family and friends of someone experiencing PTSD sometimes find it difficult to know what to do for their loved one. Its common for family and friends to feel, among other things,

  • Discouraged

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Why Do Some People Develop Ptsd And Other People Do Not

It is important to remember that not everyone who lives through a dangerous event develops PTSD. In fact, most people will not develop the disorder.

Many factors play a part in whether a person will develop PTSD. Some examples are listed below. Risk factors make a person more likely to develop PTSD. Other factors, called resilience factors, can help reduce the risk of the disorder.

Some factors that increase risk for PTSD include:

  • Living through dangerous events and traumas
  • Getting hurt
  • Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
  • Having little or no social support after the event
  • Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home
  • Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse

Some factors that may promote recovery after trauma include:

  • Seeking out support from other people, such as friends and family
  • Finding a support group after a traumatic event
  • Learning to feel good about ones own actions in the face of danger
  • Having a positive coping strategy, or a way of getting through the bad event and learning from it
  • Being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear

Researchers are studying the importance of these and other risk and resilience factors, including genetics and neurobiology. With more research, someday it may be possible to predict who is likely to develop PTSD and to prevent it.

How Common Is Ptsd

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According to the National Center for PTSD, about half of all women and 60 percent of all men will experience trauma at some point in their lives. Yet, not everyone who lives through a traumatic event will develop PTSD.

According to a 2017 study, theres at least a 10 percent prevalence of PTSD in women during their lifespan. For men, theres at least a 5 percent prevalence of PTSD during their lifetime. Simply stated, women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD.

Theres limited available research on the prevalence of PTSD in children and adolescents.

An early review showed that theres a 5 percent lifetime prevalence for adolescents ages 13 to 18 years of age.

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