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PTSD Defined


PTSD is defined as an anxiety disorder that is triggered by the brain's repetitive learning process after exposure to a traumatic or life-threatening event.

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What is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is caused by a psychologically traumatic event involving actual or threatening death or serious injury to oneself or others. Symptoms involve re-experiencing the event, changing sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, aggression, nightmares, disturbing thoughts, anxiety, depression, distraction, irritability, full or partial loss of memory, nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, emotional numbing, guilt, withdrawal, etc.

When a person has any experience, the brain logs the event using the sensory (pictures, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings) system. If a person wants to retrieve (or remember) such an event, the person needs to access one or more of the sensory inputs used in remembering the event. Over time the brain practices accessing events or memories. A good event will seem to get better. A painful event will appear to get worse. This is because when the brain reviews a memory, it embeds information from the moment the review takes place and adds it to the memory. This rehearsal of the memory of the event occurs many times over a 21-day period after the event becomes a habit in the brain. As a result of this brain practice, we may not consciously remember some or all of the original events and are frequently surprised by our reactions to the things that happen around us.

I had a client that told me casually that she hadn't driven a car in 10 years but would be getting into the driver's position again soon. When I asked her to imagine she was in the driver's seat while in my office, her eyes bulged out, her head backed up, she started raising her voice, and then she quickly changed the subject. When I brought her back to the subject of driving a couple of minutes later to discuss what had just taken place, she told me she didn't know what had happened to her that caused her to act like that.

This reaction is similar to many people's reaction to a mouse or a spider. Our brains perceive a mouse or spider less than an inch high as much larger. It results in us reacting by standing on chairs and tables. Our brain distorts the size of the spider or mouse through practice. We are, in effect, experiencing what it is like to have a flashback. We are reacting not to reality but to a memory that was triggered in our brains.

When a person experiences something traumatic, the brain is overloaded with sensory information. The multiple sensory overloads make it easy for the brain to access the original painful memory at many access points. As part of our brain's survival system, the brain rehearses every aspect of the painful experience to identify such an event in the future. As the brain practices this information, the brain embeds additional information available in the current phobic state that may not have occurred in the original event. As time passes, the individual experiences more and more of their reality closing in around them as every subsequent reminder triggers more of the original painful memory. Because the brain doesn't know the difference between reality and memory, as time goes on, every aspect of a PTSD sufferer's life appears dangerous to them. This results in exhaustion, depression, withdrawal, and other unwanted effects.

With my work, I've been able to work with and alter how an individual's brain accesses these painful memories so that the original memories are used in more productive ways resulting in tremendous relief. Most PTSD sufferers experience full recovery within three sessions over a 3 to 6-month period of time.