What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe, long lasting psychological reaction to a traumatic event, which can cause significant impairment. PTSD can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as military combat, natural disasters, serious accidents, physical assault or mental/emotional abuse in adult or childhood.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD Symptoms typically start around the first month after the traumatic event. In some cases, symptoms can be delayed by months or years, but usually appear within 6 months.
There are numerous ways a person with PTSD can relive the traumatic event. Some may re-experience the event through nightmares while others can be triggered unexpectedly by a sight, sound or smell. The flashbacks can feel so real and intense, causing feelings of fear and helplessness.
Avoidance and Numbing
People with PTSD tend to avoid triggering situations. This includes places and people that may hold memories of the traumatic event, often leading to isolation from others. Feeling emotionally numb is another prominent symptom. Some find it difficult to be in touch with their feelings or express emotions toward other people. Some may experience a loss of interest in what once brought them joy.
People with PTSD often feel constantly on guard after the traumatic event. They may find that they are paranoid, always looking for signs of danger.
This is known as increased emotional arousal, usually causing difficulty concentrating and sleeping, as well as outbursts of anger and irritability.
How can Acupuncture help with PTSD?
In August of 2015, I was diagnosed with PTSD after an assault injury. When on the search to find an alternative way to heal my internal wounds, I came across acupuncture. While there are a variety of techniques and treatments for PTSD, acupuncture is shown to be the most effective long- term, drug-free, alternative therapy for treating my PTSD.
The review, Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials and Prospective Clinical Trials, found that:
- One, high-quality randomized controlled trial (RCT) found that acupuncture was effective when compared to a waitlist control (those who had not received the treatment) and that acupuncture was as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT – common in PTSD treatment).
- One RTC showed no statistical difference between treating PTSD with acupuncture and treating it with a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI – a common medication used in PTSD treatment).
- One RTC showed that adding a variant of acupuncture (acupoint stimulation) to CBT treatment improved the effectiveness of treatment.
- A meta-analysis revealed that acupuncture plus moxibustion (a traditional Chinese medical therapy) fared better than treatment with an SSRI alone.Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety and stress by:
- Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010);
- Regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and
hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain’s mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states (Lee 2009; Zhou 2008);
- Stimulating production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system (Arranz 2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response;
- Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with stress reactions (Arranz 2007);Helpful tips:
In addition to Acupuncture, other healing daily practices to help ease the stress and anxiety from your PTSD include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Breathing techniques