PTSD Treatment in Philadelphia, PA
About 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year. This number is only a tiny portion of those who have gone through trauma. – National Center for PTSD. People with PTSD may have difficulty holding jobs, maintaining relationships, and participating in activities they once enjoyed. These effects can last a lifetime, and standard treatment is often only minimally effective. Luckily, there are other options out there.
What Causes PTSD?
Any traumatic event that a person feels emotionally unequipped to handle can maladaptively alter brain function. Similar to other mental health conditions, ongoing research is needed to fully explain why some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder after they experience trauma and others do not. Changes in brain regions like the lateral habenula, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala, all associated with memory and emotional regulation, may be the most likely answer. People with this disorder also tend to produce more stress hormones, like cortisol and norepinephrine. After undergoing these changes, the brain develops hypersensitivity to anything that reminds it of the traumatic event and may suddenly trigger the fight-or-flight response.
What is a Traumatic Event?
War-time combat is the most publicly acknowledged form of trauma. However, sexual trauma, child abuse, intimate partner violence, and natural disasters are all common origins of PTSD.
Proxy events like witnessing a car wreck or losing a loved one can also trigger the onset of PTSD. First responders constitute a significant subgroup that suffers from PTSD symptoms. Reports are exceptionally high for those dealing with particularly gruesome scenes.
What Triggers PTSD Symptoms?
In severe cases of PTSD, everyday experiences in someone’s environment reminds them of the trauma, triggering their stress response which may vary from heightened anxiety to delusional paranoia. A car may backfire, which reminds someone of a gunshot, and they begin to relive their combat or assault experience. They may be aware that they are safe even though their anxiety levels are heightened and unmanageable, or they may be convinced that they’re in danger and take action disproportionate to the situation. A hint of perfume, a particular food, or a baby crying can trigger a PTSD episode, depending on the initial trauma.
Since many triggers for PTSD happen daily, it can be extremely challenging to get symptoms under control.
What Are the Typical PTSD Symptoms?
The effects of this mental health disorder involve a wide range of symptoms. One of the most common symptoms that people experience is disruptive flashbacks. These may involve visual hallucinations of the situation that occurred. Daydreaming about the trauma is common. You may also have nightmares that wake you up at night. People who have flashbacks describe them as being so vivid that they feel they are back in the moment that caused their trauma.
Avoidance is another symptom. You may try to avoid going past a place that triggers your PTSD symptoms. If someone reminds you of a trauma, such as a police officer, you may go out of your way to avoid them. You may also refuse to talk to other people about the painful experience that you went through, and this can severely block your pathway toward healing.
You may also experience these symptoms of PTSD:
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Nausea or a lack of appetite
- A sense of constantly being on edge
- Irritability and outbursts of anger
When Do PTSD Symptoms Begin?
PTSD symptoms tend to appear within three months of the traumatic event. However, people can go many years without a problem until something triggers their brain’s responses. This PTSD response is more typical of childhood traumas, which may have required a person to suppress their reaction to remain relatively safe. Becoming a new parent may surface the trauma, or experiencing a recent trauma may do the same. When PTSD symptoms emerge long after the traumatic event, it is essential to note them seriously since they signal a need for professional treatment.
What are the Complications of Post-Traumatic Stress?
Untreated post-traumatic stress disorder is highly disruptive. The complications it imposes on everyday life can compound anxiety disorders and depression. In severe cases, people may start thinking about suicide to escape their symptoms. If the PTSD symptoms are severe, a person may be unable to function. Avoidance and the physical symptoms of panic may prevent a person from working, commuting, or getting regular sleep. In the long run, these patterns severely diminish a person’s quality of life.
How Does Ketamine Treat PTSD?
Many brain areas are affected by PTSD. The current understanding is that specific synapses within the brain fail to function appropriately. Recent evidence points to ketamine’s inhibitory effects on the NMDA receptor in the lateral habenula. The lateral habenula is a brain region primarily responsible for encoding negative rewards or anti-reward cause-and-effect relationships. Those with PTSD show an overactivity of their NMDA receptors. As a non-competitive NMDA antagonist, ketamine prevents glutamate from activating the NMDA receptor.
The inhibition of the NMDA receptor may cause a build-up of free glutamate, which then activates the AMPA receptors. When surplus glutamate activates the AMPA receptor, it releases a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) chemical. BDNF, in interaction with the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), promotes new neural growth. This new growth may reroute the brain from hyperactive areas associated with negative reward signals, providing long-term relief from PTSD.
Ketamine treatment for PTSD reduces the rates of suicide. It is also effective for treating war combat veterans with some of the most extreme PTSD symptoms. Those with co-existing conditions, such as depression, also find relief from those symptoms. This allows many people to use a single treatment instead of a cocktail of medications.
How Do I Know If I Need Treatment?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe mental health issue that can increase in severity over time. You should consider treatment at the first sign that you cannot effectively cope with a tragic event. Getting help as soon as possible reduces the effects that trauma has on your brain in the long term. Anyone who finds that their symptoms get in the way of living a normal lifestyle must find out if they need treatment for PTSD with ketamine infusions.
Reliving a tragic event turns your life upside down. Your symptoms may interfere with your relationships, and you may struggle with standard parts of your day, such as going to work. When PTSD interferes with your ability to progress, it is time to seek a professional’s guidance to identify a treatment that helps you heal. Voyage Healing is psychiatrist-run with expertly trained therapists on hand. We have extensive experience helping those with PTSD find their way to recovery.
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