Ptsd Affects What Part Of The Brain – Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that can develop from witnessing or experiencing a traumatic or distressing situation. According to the National PTSD Center, 8 million people in the US live with PTSD each year (2017). PTSD can result from directly experiencing an event or indirectly through a person recounting their own experience or witnessing someone else experience trauma. Professionals who experience significant stress due to indirect secondary trauma (eg, law enforcement, counselors, medical personnel) sometimes experience mood swings that lead to PTSD symptoms. This transformation is called vicarious traumatization.
Merely experiencing grief after a traumatic event does not guarantee a diagnosis. More than half of Americans experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, but only 7 to 8 percent of them develop the disorder (Veterans Affairs, 2017). The type of PTSD symptoms experienced and their severity vary from person to person. The four main symptoms and signs of PTSD include intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in mood or thoughts, and changes in physical and emotional responses (Mayo Clinic, 2019). Some specific symptoms include:
Ptsd Affects What Part Of The Brain
A detailed list of criteria used for official diagnosis can be found in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM-5.
The Ptsd History Timeline
PTSD can be debilitating, causing problems with productivity, relationships and mental health. In many cases, the longevity of psychological trauma exceeds the lifespan of its detrimental effects on physical well-being; cuts, scrapes, breaks, and bruises are always painful, but they heal eventually. In contrast, psychological trauma can last from months to lifetimes. This disorder is not a sign of weakness, but a biological condition that affects men and women of all cultural, socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. In severe cases of PTSD, the brain responds by undergoing noticeable changes, particularly in areas such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala—areas that play a major role in the areas of the brain responsible for cognition, memory, and response to stimuli. Below is a diagram showing the areas of the brain along with the main functions that studies and research have shown to be most affected by PTSD.
The amygdala, known as the “emotion center” plays a key role in regulating emotions, memories and initiating survival instincts. When the body is presented with a potentially dangerous stimulus from the environment, the amygdala responds by signaling the body to fight, flee or freeze. For example, if a bee lands on a young boy’s shoulder, he has three options, he can run, hope to escape the insect, attack the bee, or remain silent until the bee flies away. Boys do not have time to evaluate all three options and as a result, thanks to the amygdala, they can effectively act without conscious thought. When a person experiences a stressful event, the amygdala releases a chemical called norepinephrine, which increases the level of activity leading to an increased heart rate and a heightened state of arousal. Individuals with PTSD often experience greater activity in the amygdala, resulting in a more reactive startle response and more norepinephrine being released into the body. Excess norepinephrine can give people too much adrenaline, compromising their ability to reason logically and effectively. Damage to the amygdala inhibits the ability to experience fear (Aggleton, 2000). Unlike a hyperactive amygdala that contributes to impulsive behavior, a hypoactive amygdala is problematic because a person tends to react accordingly when faced with danger.
Another area of the brain that is altered in chronic PTSD victims is the “executive function center,” the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which works with the amygdala to regulate emotions and behavior. It plays an important role in goal attainment, abstract thinking, self-control, and behavior initiation. A normally functioning brain has a PFC wired to resist over-arousal in the amygdala, but a PTSD brain often has a lower PFC. Research shows that PTSD patients often experience a decrease in volume in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area that plays a role in regulating emotions and preventing impulsive behavior (Maynard, 2020). This shows why subjects with PTSD feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety in the absence of danger.
Along with the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus plays a role in mediating stress and fear. This area also plays a major role in cognition, learning, perception and memory retrieval. When a person experiences trauma, it can be caused by an environment that resembles the place where it happened. These spatial associations are largely due to the hippocampus, which helps us distinguish the present from the past. When people feel stressed, the hypothalamus releases a hormone called cortisol, which helps regulate the stress response. However, as observed in animal studies, high levels of cortisol are thought to damage cells in the hippocampus. Brain scans show that PTSD patients with chronic stress have damage to the hippocampus, reducing its size and function (Tull, 2019). A smaller hippocampus contributes to trauma victims having difficulty trying to remember past events and separate previous stressful experiences from current situations. Decreased hippocampal volume helps explain why beach movies can induce anxiety and fear in shark attack victims.
The Neurobiology And Impacts Of Ptsd
Awareness of the neuroscience behind mental disorders, especially PTSD, can help to understand and support loved ones living with them. Furthermore, professionals can provide more effective treatment when they know which areas of the brain need additional stimulation or inhibition. There are many different approaches that can be taken to reduce the symptoms of PTSD. The six most common and most productive treatments (Bhandari, 2017) are:
Professionals refuse to say that PTSD can be cured, because if you experience a trauma, there is always a chance that the symptoms from before will return (“Is PTSD Curable?”, 2020). However, PTSD can be managed, and the impact of symptoms can be minimized with treatment. It is important for people with PTSD to know that recovery is possible and that PTSD does not have to control your life.
Tull, M. (2019). How damage to the brain’s hippocampus may play a role in PTSD Downloaded from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-effect-of-ptsd-on-the-brain-2797643By: Emily Blasley || Scientific reviewer: Alice Do || Lai Reviewer: Taylor Forry || General Editor: Pathompon Moonthianngam || Artist: Samantha Heidelbaugh || Graduate Scientific Reviewer: Dana May
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should be considered in anyone who has experienced a traumatic event . About 60% of men and 50% of women will experience trauma at some point in their lives. However, exposure to trauma does not guarantee the onset of PTSD symptoms; typically, only 4% of men and 10% of women end up with PTSD after experiencing trauma . The psychological mechanisms that prevent PTSD in individuals are unknown. Thus, early recognition of symptoms and understanding of the neurobiology of this disorder are crucial for diagnosis, treatment, and recovery .
Relationship Between Tbis And Ptsd
Traumatic events cause the brain to go into a survival mechanism called the fight-or-flight response. This response causes various physiological changes mediated by the activation of the parasympathetic, which is responsible for calming the body in response to stress, and the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for preparing the body for stress . These changes include increased heart rate, increased cardiac output, and temporary inhibition of digestive function. These modifications enable the body to effectively fight or run away from danger.
Every day, unconsciously, your eyes and ears send what you see and hear to the amygdala, which acts as the emotion processing area of the brain. The amygdala must quickly decide whether the information it receives should trigger a fight or flight response. If the response is triggered, the amygdala will signal the hypothalamus, a hormone-producing region of the brain, to quickly create a survival mechanism in response to perceived danger. The survival-focused brain is unable to consider each decision as thoroughly as it usually does; the sole purpose is to ensure survival .
The freezing response is another example of a lesser known trauma response. Commonly referred to as tonic immobility (a temporary state of movement inhibition), the freezing response is believed to be an innate biological response to extreme stress. It is the desire to run when fear and physical limitations make running impossible. Physical restraints are common in cases of abuse and violent trauma because of the tense power dynamic between abuser and victim. During torture or abuse, the victim may remain motionless despite wanting the abuse to stop – this is the freeze response. These responses occur when it is impossible to win a battle or successfully flee .
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by the persistence of one or more of the following symptoms: reliving the event, avoiding situations similar to the event, experiencing negative changes in trust, difficulty trusting friends or family, or experiencing persistent hyperarousal. or excessive activity, more than one month after the traumatic onset . The widespread symptoms are believed to be related to extensive changes in the brain in response to trauma. PTSD affects the areas of the brain that control it
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