Sprout Yoga

What therapies ARE available for PTSD?

In PTSD and Yoga on February 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) was first diagnosed in the 1970s among returning vietnam veterans. In essence, it was a revamped updated and more complete version of what was formerly called Shell Shock.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a pattern of behavior that develops after a traumatic event. A traumatic event in this context is defined as one that may bring serious injury or death to oneself or to another person. Traumatic events capable of causing post- traumatic stress disorder include kidnapping, natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, etc), physical and sexual abuse, combat, drug abuse, and near-death experiences.” (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=12516)

I’ve also described that yoga can be of assistance in combination with other therapies. So what are the current therapies available and in use?

Drug Therapy

There has been some evidence that administering propranolol within 20 hours of the traumatic event can reduce anxiety and stress symptoms by up to half of those not given the drug. (http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20031027-000002.html).  Propranolol is also called Inderol and it acts by  blocking the sympathetic nervous system. (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=12516)

Other studies have shown that the use of  Zoloft for those with PTSD (a drug commonly administered to those suffering from depression) has shown some relief.  Initially, researchers targed the neurotransmitters responsible for the occurrence of flashbacks. ” For example, antidepressants including imipramine and phenelzine (Nardil) that alter neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and acetylcholine have been found do more to reduce flashbacks and the feelings of helplessness more than placebo (a dummy pill). Unfortunately, however, side effects interfered with the long-term use of these drugs. ” (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=12516)

However, it should be noted that the studies showing positive effects with treatment of Zoloft, as noted above, involved women who developed PTSD after an episode of sexual violence. The result was a 50% reduction in stress symptoms as opposed to a 30% for those treated witha  placebo (or sugar pill). When replicated, the results were not shown again. Additionally, there was no effect when the same study was tried on veterans. (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=12516)

Other drugs are being studied, including:  Nefazodone (Serzone), mirtazapine (Remeron) fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa).

Counseling/Talk Therapy

Talk therapy has also been shown to be effective in treating PTSD. Specifically, the earlier treatment is given to someone with PTSD, the more effective it can be.  For help finding a therapist specifically trained to work with trauma and its effects,  contact the Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute by email at help@sidran.org or by phone at (410) 825-8888 ext. 203.

What kind of therapy?

  • Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD and trauma involves carefully and gradually “exposing” yourself to thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind you of the trauma. Therapy also involves identifying upsetting thoughts about the traumatic event–particularly thoughts that are distorted and irrational—and replacing them with more balanced picture.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) – EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. Eye movements and other bilateral forms of stimulation are thought to work by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress, leaving only frozen emotional fragments which retain their original intensity. Once EMDR frees these fragments of the trauma, they can be integrated into a cohesive memory and processed.
  • Family therapy. Since PTSD affects both you and those close to you, family therapy can be especially productive. Family therapy can help your loved ones understand what you’re going through. It can also help everyone in the family communicate better and work through relationship problems.

How does yoga fit into therapy?

Some therapists, such as Babette Rothschild, use movement and body feedback focusing in their talk therapy. By focusing on the body, sensations and movement, a client can begin engaging parts of the brain needed to tag the traumatic memories with a date and time, a space and place. By doing so, that allows that memory to stop repeating in the form of flashbacks.

Yoga can be used as a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy, in that it allows the practioner to learn to recognize feedback from their body, and due to positional memory (where holding a certain position can recall thoughts and feelings raised when the body was last in that position), can help gently begin the process of allowing traumatic memories to rise, and be recognized, then worked through in other talk therapy.


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