2017 PTSD Awareness Post – Part I

June is PTSD Awareness Month
Adding to our awareness and understanding

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Self-Health Series
Refliections Post

“Emotions are very good at activating thoughts,
but thoughts are not very good at controlling emotions.

~  Joseph LeDoux

What We’ve Learned from LeDoux: Mechanisms of Fear

Cognitive neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux is an NYU professor and a member of the Center for Neural Science and Department of Psychology at New York University.

In addition to his work focused on the neural mechanisms of emotion and memory, he is also the director of the Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety — a multi-university Research Center in Manhattan using research with rats to explore and attempt to understand the mechanisms of pathological fear and anxiety in humans (which LeDoux prefers to call “extreme emotional reactions to the threat response”)

Essentially, when we are looking at PTSD, we are talking about individuals stuck in a particular type of FEAR response — responding in the present to threats from the past.

PTSD sufferers appear to be at the mercy of the reappearance of memories and resulting emotions because they lack immediate conscious control.

For many years, neuroscientists believed that the cortex, the most recently evolved, wrinkly outer covering of the human brain, was required for the processing of any kind of conscious experience, even those triggered by a sensory input resulting in an emotional response.

Thanks to the work of LeDoux and his colleagues at The LeDoux Lab, we now know that this information can be chemically transmitted through the brain in an additional manner using a pathway that bypasses the cortex, allowing our emotions to be triggered unconsciously, faster than the speed of thought.

In other words, our brains are designed to respond neuro-chemically when our safety is threatened, regardless of what we think about it logically or how we feel about it emotionally.

How traumatic events intensify the threat response

According to current scientific understanding, experiencing traumatic events can change the way our brains function.

PTSD develops when we get stuck in the “ready to act” survival mode as the memory cycle repeats and strengthens the emotional responses to the original traumatic event in reaction to some sort of trigger.

The stress hormone cortisol strengthens memories of traumatic experiences, both while the memory is being formed for the first time, and afterwards.

Every time our brain gathers the pieces of memory’s puzzle and puts them back together – a process known as reconsolidation – cortisol is released anew as we are reminded of a traumatic experience.

Previous studies using scanning technology have shown that people with PTSD have altered brain anatomy and function.

Subsequent research on the connection between PTSD and brain-based disorders — including those associated with dementia and TBI [traumatic brain injury] — indicate that trauma itself actually changes structures in the brain.

In the face of an overwhelming feeling of fear, our lifesaving-in-the-moment set of adaptive responses leave behind ongoing, long-term and brain scan-observable physical residuals that can result in psychological problems as well as attendant physical symptoms.

Trauma upsets the brain’s chemical balance

Synchronization of the activity of different networks in the brain is the fundamental process that facilitates the transmission of detailed information and the triggering of appropriate behavioral responses. The brain accomplished this task through the use of chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.

Synchronization is crucial for sensory, motor and cognitive processes, as well as the appropriate functioning of the circuits involved in controlling emotional behavior.

Synchronization is a balancing act

Researchers from Uppsala University and the medical university Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm have shown that in people with PTSD there is an imbalance between serotonin and substance P, two of the brain’s neuro-chemical signalling systems.

The greater the imbalance,
the more serious the symptoms.

It seems that repeated experience of traumatic events, especially when left to fester unprocessed, can prevent rebalancing, which prevents healing (meaning, allowing the past to remain in the past, feeling confident that you have the strength to handle whatever life throws your way in the future).

Related Post: PTSD reveals imbalance between signalling systems in the brain

Responding to threats of danger

Our nervous system developed to greatly increase the chances that we would remain alive to procreate in the presence of threats to safety and security. We wouldn’t live long at all if we lacked a mechanism to allow us to detect and respond to danger – rapidly.

When our safety is threatened, a survival response automatically kicks in — before the brain circuits that control our slower conscious processes have had time to interpret that physiological response that is occurring “under the radar.”

Initially, there is no emotion attached to our automatic response to threat. In other words, fear is a cognitive construct.

Our individual perceptions of the extent of the danger we just experienced or witnessed is what adds velocity to the development of fearful emotions, even if our feeling response follows only a moment behind.

Some of us are able to process those perfectly normal and appropriate fearful responses and move forward. Others of us, for a great many different reasons, are not.

Many of those who are not able to process and move forward are likely to develop one or more of the anxiety disorders, while others will develop a particular type of anxiety disorder we call PTSD — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Related articles:
When Fear Becomes Entrenched & Chronic
Understanding Fear and Anxiety

Remember – links on this site are dark grey to reduce distraction potential
while you’re reading. They turn red on mouseover

An Equal Opportunity Destroyer

You will find that statistics about the prevalence of PTSD can vary considerably, depending on the year and the source of the study.

Whatever the number, it is quite likely to be low, since many people never seek treatment for PTSD — or even admit to themselves that PTSD is what they are experiencing.

According to recent VA research and experience (US Veterans Administration), approximately eight million Americans alone will experience PTSD in a given year, including both civilian and military populations.

While we hear most about the challenges of PTSD in soldiers, as you will see from the chart below, it is by no means limited to those returning from combat.

  • Individuals have been appropriately diagnosed with PTSD as the result of a great many different traumas: accidents, assaults, natural disasters, serious illnesses and more.
  • It can develop in the wake of almost any traumatic event. (Situations in which a person feels intense fear, helplessness, or horror are considered traumatic.)

More common in women

Exposure to trauma is especially common in women; approximately 50% – five out of every ten women – will experience a traumatic event at some point during their lifetime, according to the The National Center for PTSD, a division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

One in ten of those women will develop PTSD as a result.

In addition, PTSD in females presents differently than in males.

  • Men are most likely to show irritability, impulsive behavior and substance abuse.
  • Women and girls tend more toward numbing and avoidance, developing anxiety and affective disorders.

Related Post: Interesting World PTSD Statistics

Who’s at greatest risk of developing PTSD?

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, individuals likely to develop PTSD include:

  • Victims of violent crime (including victims of physical and sexual assaults, sexual abuse, as well as witnesses of murders, riots, terrorist attacks);
  • Members of professions where violence is likely, experienced, or witnessed often or regularly, especially first-responders (for example, anyone in the armed forces, police force, journalists in certain niches, prison workers, fire, ambulance and emergency personnel),
    including those who are no longer in service, by the way;
  • Victims of war, torture, state-sanctioned violence or terrorism, and refugees;
  • Survivors of serious accidents or assaults;
  • Anyone living through natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, etc.) — especially sole survivors or when loved ones were lost;
  • Women following traumatic childbirth;
  • Individuals diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses;
  • Anything resulting in a traumatic brain injury [TBI] leaving the individual struggling with the ongoing trauma of trying to live a life without the cognitive or physical capabilities they thought they would always be able to count on.

PTSD sufferers are also at risk of developing secondary psychological disorders as complications of PTSD.  At its base, however, we are talking about individuals stuck in a particular type of FEAR response.

Risk Factors explained

According to The World Health Organization, a risk factor is any attribute, characteristic or exposure that increases the likelihood of an individual’s developing a disease or injury. For this article, a risk factor is anything that increases the chance of developing PTSD.

Increased risk factors have been compiled by various organizations in an effort to help explain why some people who experience a traumatic event develop PTSD, while others do not.

PTSD is more likely to occur in individuals with the following:
(in no particular order)

  • Previous traumatic experiences
  • A history of being physically or sexually abused
  • Family psychiatric history
  • Alcoholism or alcohol abuse
  • A social environment that fosters stigmatization, guilt, shame,
    and/or self-hatred (including victims of extreme or chronic childhood bullying)
  • Absence of a community of social support
  • Inadequate emotional coping skills overall
  • Chronic exposure to ongoing high-stress environments of any type
  • TBI/ABI traumas

What’s Next?

In Part-II of this article we’ll take a look at recognizing PTSD — emotional, physical and cognitive signs and symptoms that indicate or accompany a PTSD diagnosis.

In PTSD articles to come, in addition to the many I have already posted (including a comprehensive article exploring Complex PTSD), we’ll take a closer look at how PTSD is believed to develop, treatment options currently available and treatment options that are being explored for future use — so STAY TUNED.

Meanwhile, check out some of the links of Related Content I include at the bottom of almost all of my posts.

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Check bottom of Home/New to find out the “sharing rules”
(reblogs always okay, and much appreciated)

If you are (or love) a veteran of combat, make sure you investigate what the Armed Services have put into place to help — and check out the links below, and on the right sidebar (scroll DOWN to the TBI links for the Bob Woodruff Foundation – also check out The Coming Home Project.)

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IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

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You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.

For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
— and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves —

Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above or below)

Other supports for this article – on ADDandSoMuchMore.com

Related Articles ’round the net

A few PTSD Support Sites

Related Information Articles

BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

48 Responses to 2017 PTSD Awareness Post – Part I

  1. Pingback: PTSD Awareness Post 2017 – Part II | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Friday Fun: More about SLEEP | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Christy B says:

    I appreciate this quality resource, Madelyn. I had PTSD and received therapy for it, which helped, along with learning coping mechanisms. You’re right that the response happens so quickly. I didn’t realize men and women have different reactions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me either, until I began to research, Christy. But it does make intuitive sense that the difference in our hormonal cocktails (and socialization) would cause us to react differently to a LOT of things – even medication, they are finally documenting.

      Thanks again for your engagement over here, Christy – I love to see your gravitar pop up over here. So smart of you to get help to put that demon in its place. Thanks for letting others see that it IS possible!!!!


  4. dgkaye says:

    A mighty fine and concise post of great awareness my brilliant friend. 🙂 ❤


  5. Chuck says:

    Hi Madelyn,
    I’m not complaining, in fact I am grateful that PTSD with the military has a name and being recognized. I’m a Vietnam Vet and when we came home, it was hard enough to deal with the negativity of the war. Many of us (myself included) came home with what would now be diagnosed as PTSD, yet we remained silent. I remember I felt weak if I said anything. My family had to deal with the anger and nightmares. Later years it raised it’s ugly head in many other ways. Thank God there are people like you that keeps the awareness in the forefront. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • #1 – Thank you for your service!

      #2 – I am so sorry that most of America treated Vietnam Vets so shabbily on your return.

      That must NEVER be allowed to happen again. I don’t care how people feel about foreign wars or war in general, when brave individuals step up to risk their lives in the name of safety and security for the rest of us, they deserve to be welcomed home like the heroes they are.

      I’m sure I don’t have to tell YOU, but the number of Viet Nam vets with PTSD – still – is statistically incredible (and many are still undiagnosed, living on the streets or addicted to various substances trying to cope). That’s part of the reason why I wrote the C-PTSD and Unique Loneliness of the Military Family articles.

      There is SO much more we can do and need to do. I write to increase awareness hoping it will lead to a call for FUNDING!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Soooz says:

    A post that hits a grateful nerve in me, Madelyn. I am in my sixties now, and still go through dark periods and flashbacks relevant to severe child abuse from the age of three. PTSD is very real, and whilst I am aware of its presence in my life I struggle to contain the damage each ‘flashback’ creates.

    Good people are affected in a continuing wave, as our damage sends out ripples that touch unprepared souls. Awareness is the most powerful tool we have in our arsenal. Self awareness, and just as importantly the growing understanding of others that stand to be in some way affected by the actions of folks suffering this debilitating cycle of pain.

    Thank you from the bottom of this old heart, for helping to shine a much needed spotlight on PTSD.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for this comment, Soooz – I am in total agreement with all you wrote.

      I’m so sorry for what happened, and more so that you continue to be affected by the horrors of your early experiences. Are you aware of Complex PTSD [C-PTSD]. You sound like you might be a textbook case.

      Either way, I appreciate the appreciation – and I’ll keep ringing the Awareness bell for as long as it takes and as long as I can.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Soooz says:

        Thank you, Madelyn. I am aware of Complex PTSD. And yes, I have no doubt at all that I appear to be a textbook case. What others are gradually coming to terms with, is that I and many many others that have lived through and beyond childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse do not see themselves as victims. We punish ourselves for our perception that we in some way deserved to be treated as less than human. It is at last a perception I no longer hold. I deserve joy in my life, and now leave myself open to it, and the serenity that it brings in its wake. Thank you again.

        Liked by 1 person

        • How wonderful to read that you’ve made it to the other side of abuse You are an inspiration.

          My mother was able to stop the cycle of abuse in a single generation – an incredibly warm and loving woman with nothing but good thoughts about everyone.

          Don’t ask me about my grandmother, however. She took whatever happened to her as a child to her grave, but left nasty memories of her mean comments and actions with her grandchildren. I’m still struggling to forgive her for horrid comments made to my mother – personally witnessed at too young an age to let her have it!

          Only after she died did my uncle share that they had both been abused as children. My father said that if he’d known he would never have let her step foot in his house – which is, no doubt, why my mother never disclosed it – an amazingly forgiving soul.

          And thanks for following – I’ll be over to read what you are up to later today.


  7. John Fioravanti says:

    Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC provides us with an information packed article about how PTSD develops and in whom it is likely to manifest itself. Please, read on…

    Liked by 1 person

    • WOW – 2 reblogs on the same day! I am so psyched (and stunned, actually!)

      I was afraid nobody would read anything at all when several posts somehow jumped the queue and dumped at once).

      THANK YOU, John!

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Fioravanti says:

        You’re most welcome, Madelyn – I was wondering what happened. You gave my poor old brain a good workout today! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was stunned when I came home last night and saw that two posts got published at once. NOT happy about that!

          I’m not sure whether it was my oops or a WordPress glitch, but I double-checked the dates on the rest of the posts in the queue. If it happens again it won’t be on me.

          I sure hope the gremlins are not “improving” my systems – again! I don’t know how I’ll manage if I can’t write ahead and queue to post later. It’s hard enough keeping up with comments in real time.


  8. Such a real reality and this article gives such great insight into it. Thank you for making the time to pull it together Madelyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A fascinating article, Madelyn. I had to read it twice slowly as it is quite technical and complex for me. I told you that Greg suffers from OCD but I neglected to mention that his OCD is symptomatic. His core diagnosis is PTSD. Greg had 18 operations as a young child and we still struggle with the after effects of his initial condition. This was very interesting and useful for me. Thank you.


  10. Liz says:

    I am so glad to read this, I have several friends who suffer from depression. This eyeopener has me concerned that its PTSD. Question, how do you convince someone to get the help they need and deserve?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately and sadly, Liz, you can’t convince — you can only suggest that they consider the possibility and check it out after sharing “what you recently read about PTSD” (and offer to facilitate if they seem practically dysfunctionally isolated) – jumping through the health system admin hoops might be what stops them.

      Some of my earlier PTSD articles might be good ones to share with them – where I talk about my own and how difficult it was for me to see it in myself and admit I needed help. [When Fear Becomes Entrenched & Chronic; Understanding Fear and Anxiety] (linked above)

      Thanks for reading and ringing in.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liz says:

        I will gently and carefully pass this on. People even those close to you get so offended by the idea they may need support mentally. I’ve watched folks struggle for years before I figured out what could be wrong. But then, I read a lot. Lack of education really crushes communities whose residents are immersed in this suffering.

        Liked by 1 person

        • One of my older PTSD articles begins with a broken leg analogy (and graphic) – read that for an idea of some language I’ve found to work most often (but less “convincing” in tone in person, and not with everyone).

          I have a very well educated, well-informed, extremely mental health aware colleague whom I am absolutely positive is struggling with worsening PTSD (and *not* primary depression) several years after the police murdered her son. While she agrees it is likely, that’s as far as it goes. Heartbreaking to watch her suffering.

          You are right about the effects of lack of education generally, however – especially in poor rural or inner city communities, where the increase in the incidence of many types of trauma is often substantial.

          We have a LONG way to go before mental and physical health are taken equally seriously – sans stigma!

          Liked by 1 person

  11. thanks for such great informations… . the list about the things what can cause ptsd is worth to ponder about… we often pay such a high price for things what happened to us…and violence and accidents often leave scars on our soul what never heal up… sigh…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lucy Brazier says:

    Such a debilitating and frightening condition – I am so pleased such work and research is being made in this area.

    Liked by 1 person

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