PTSD : The struggle between Homeostasis and Protection
Have I mentioned how much taking the class on “Genocide and Torture” this semester has really been such a blessing? I have known so little about PTSD and other symptoms and consequences of horrific human behavior and I feel like I have learned so much not only about other people, but also about how my body and my brain reacts to things which I have never understood before- at least not very well. I spent some time this week looking at how two specific systems in our body are used to help the body in times of threat and how it returns to its 'normal' state of being. And while doing these readings, it was really interesting to find out how PTSD actually changes the way that these systems function and causes some of the symptoms that cause sufferers of this disorder so many problems.
In the average individual, these systems work together really well to help a person deal with a significant threat (or perceived threat) in good ways and then brings the body back to a normal level of function. In someone with PTSD, however, these systems do not always work the way that they were intended. So, the sympathetic system can be turned on over sounds or events that are not currently happening, memories etc... and the body will response as if the threat is clear and present. Other studies had shown that some people with PTSD have challenges with incorporating or being sensitive enough to the hormones that turn the stress response off. So people with these challenges are more likely to be overly stressed often and have more challenges in getting the body calmed down and focused again for their regular tasks and needs. That seems like an extra challenge to be sure!
So, take a few minutes and think.... How does your body react to stress and how well does it call down? If you have PTSD, how do you think your body reacts differently than someone else that does not? What techniques do you use to try and help your body reach a level of calm faster?