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Multiple Sclerosis and Risk for PTSD

Tuesday August 20, 2013

There are a number of different events that can be considered traumatic and place a person at risk for the development of PTSD. Experiencing a life-threatening illnesses or severe medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, is one such type of event. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the nervous system. It is believed to be an autoimmune disease, such that your body's own immune system attacks cells in your brain and spinal cord. There are numerous symptoms of MS. Symptoms can be mild, including numbness in limbs, or they can be severe, such as paralysis or complete loss of vision. The symptoms of MS, their severity, and their progression vary from person to person. It is an unpredictable illness.

Developing PTSD following a diagnosis of MS is a serious issue. PTSD can interfere greatly with many areas of a person's life. However, developing PTSD in response to MS can be particularly troubling. PTSD symptoms can negatively affect a person's physical health and place greater stress on your body, further increasing risk for future health problems. PTSD may also contribute to the development of unhealthy behaviors which can increase your risk for MS symptom relapses. The unpredictable and uncertain nature of MS may also lead to increased stress and/or depression which can trigger the occurrence of MS symptoms.

Although research in this area is limited, some studies have been done. Learn more about the connection between MS and PTSD, as well as current research in this area, in this article from About.com.

How to Increase Your Success When Managing Your Emotions

Monday August 19, 2013

If you have a diagnosis of PTSD then you likely experience strong negative emotions from time to time. PTSD can result in the experience of intense and frequent negative emotions, such as shame, anger, fear and sadness. These emotions may catch you off guard. They may also feel out-of-control or as though they will never end. As a result, you may likely find that managing your emotions can be a difficult thing to do. You are not alone. Study after study has shown that people with PTSD experience more difficulties managing their emotions.

These emotions can be hard to manage; consequently, many people with PTSD develop unhealthy ways of regulating their emotions, such as through substance use or deliberate self-harm. Although these strategies may work initially, in the long-run they will only increase your distress. Therefore, it is important to develop healthy ways of managing your emotions, such as through expressive writing, self-soothing or seeking social support.

Identifying healthy ways of managing your emotions is only one piece of the puzzle. There are additional steps you may want to take to ensure that the healthy emotion regulation strategies you come up with will be successful. Listed in this article are some tips on how to improve the effectiveness of your strategies.

Using Exposure Therapy to Treat PTSD and Substance Abuse

Saturday August 17, 2013

Substance use disorders (such as alcohol dependence or drug dependence) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently co-occur. Although these two conditions are often present at the same time, mental health professionals still are not sure what is the best way to treat this co-occurrence. In fact, there is a good amount of debate about how to best treat someone with both PTSD and substance use problems.

Some mental health professionals have developed treatments that address both symptoms at the same time. One of the most common treatments for people with PTSD and substance use problems is Seeking Safety. Seeking Safety was developed by Dr. Lisa Najavits, and it is a cognitive-behavioral group therapy that specifically targets the unique problems that result from struggling with both drug/alcohol use and PTSD. There is considerable support for Seeking Safety. Multiple studies have found that Seeking Safety can lead to a number of positive outcomes for people with PTSD and substance use problems.

However, some mental health professionals are beginning to explore whether already established cognitive-behavioral treatments for PTSD, such as exposure therapy (also referred to as prolonged exposure), may be just as useful. This article presents some preliminary work on the use of exposure therapy in treating symptoms of PTSD among patients with substance use disorders in a residential treatment program.

Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation for PTSD

Wednesday July 31, 2013

There has been some recent studies which suggest that people with PTSD may benefit from yoga and mindfulness meditation. Yoga originated in ancient India and means "union" in Sanskrit. In yoga, the "union" that occurs is between the mind, body and spirit. Yoga, as many think about it today, is most accurately described by the word "asana," another Sanskrit word that describes the practice of physical postures and poses. In a nutshell, yoga is about creating a balance or equilibrium in the body through the development of strength and flexibility. Breathing and mindful awareness of the body are also important components of yoga.

Yoga may work particularly well for people with PTSD because it has been found to reduce the sensitivity of the part of our nervous system that causes us to feel physically aroused in response to some kind of stressful event or situation. In addition, yoga may help strengthen the part of our nervous system that aids in the reduction of arousal. Yoga has also been found to bring about changes in areas of the brain involved in the experience of positive emotion and reward. Yoga may also increase mindful awareness of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, which can be very helpful for someone with PTSD. Finally, yoga can improve your physical health, which may be particularly important for people with PTSD (read more about the benefits of exercise for people with PTSD here).

You can read more about these studies and the benefits of yoga for PTSD in this article from About.com. You can also read about a new study examining the effect of meditation on PTSD from Fox News.

Managing Intense Emotions When You Have PTSD

Sunday July 28, 2013

When people have PTSD, they are likely going to experience very intense negative emotions. Intense emotions can be very difficult to manage, and as a result, intense emotions often result in a wide range of unhealthy and impulsive behaviors, such as substance use, binge eating, and deliberate self-harm. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to better manage (as well as prevent) intense emotions. This article takes you through a number of healthy emotion regulation strategies for managing intense emotions. The article also provides some basic information on emotions.

What is Interoceptive Exposure and is it Helpful for People with PTSD?

Friday July 26, 2013

Exposure therapy for PTSD has repeatedly been found to be successful in reducing the symptoms of PTSD. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for the condition. That said, not everyone benefits from exposure therapy, as some people continue to experience lingering PTSD symptoms after treatment is completed. In addition, one of the side effects of exposure therapy is that people may initially experience an increase in symptoms (you have to first access the symptoms in order to work through them). Although this is temporary and the symptoms eventually subside, many people understandably find this side effect of exposure therapy to be intolerable and may leave treatment or decide not to proceed with treatment. For these reasons, some mental health professionals are looking at ways to improve exposure therapy for PTSD so that more people can benefit from it. One idea that is being explored is incorporating interoceptive exposure into traditional exposure therapy for PTSD.

Interoceptive exposure is a specific technique that is often used to treat panic disorder. Interoceptive exposure is designed to help people directly confront the feared bodily symptoms often associated with anxiety or other intense emotions, such as an increased heart rate and shortness of breath. Learn more about interoceptive exposure in this article and how it can be incorporated into traditional exposure therapy for PTSD. You can also learn about how to find a therapist in your area who may be able to provide this treatment.

PTSD and Worry

Saturday July 20, 2013

Do you worry? Chances are the answer is "yes." In fact, everyone experiences worry from time to time, and worry is more likely to occur when you are experiencing stress. Worry involves thinking about possible future problems, concerns, or outcomes. It often takes the form of "what if..." thinking and generally accompanies anxiety and/or stress.

Some people, however, may experience very severe worry to the point that the worry occurs constantly throughout the day and feels uncontrollable. There is some evidence that people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be more likely than others to struggle with worry. Excessive, frequent worry that feels out of your control can greatly interfere with your life. It can pull you out of the present moment, reducing your contact with pleasurable activities. It can also increase your anxiety and lead to a state of constant stress and tension.

In this article, you can learn more about what worry is, why it might occur (particularly among people with PTSD), and how to manage it.

The Development of PTSD from a Stroke

Sunday June 30, 2013

There are a number of different events that can be considered traumatic and place a person at risk for the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Experiencing life-threatening illnesses or medical conditions, such as a stroke, is one such type of event.

Strokes vary in the damage they can cause. Some strokes are associated with symptoms that resolve themselves on their own in less than 24 hours. However, others can lead to significant damage, including long-lasting neurological deficits. Without a doubt, a stroke meets criteria as a traumatic event. It threatens a person's life and because it is unexpected, a person may feel completely helpless to do anything about a stroke. Given this, surviving a stroke may place an individual at risk for the development of PTSD.

Although a stroke can definitely be considered a traumatic event, few studies have actually looked at whether people who experience a stroke are at high risk for developing PTSD. A group of researchers at Tenon Hospital in Paris, France attempted to answer to this very question. They measured the PTSD symptoms of a group of patients who had experienced a TIA or ischemic stroke 1 to 6 months after their hospitalization. Learn more about what they found in this article.

PTSD and Asthma Attacks

Friday June 7, 2013

There are a number of different types of traumatic events that can lead to the development of PTSD, and one such type is the experience of a life-threatening illness, such as asthma. Asthma is very common in the general population, and because of this, many people might think that asthma really isn't life-threatening.

However, asthma is one of the most common childhood chronic illnesses, and it can have a tremendous negative impact on a child's life and may even result in death. In fact, asthma accounts for one-fourth of all emergency room visits in the United States per year and is the third ranking cause of hospitalization for children. Further, there are more than 4,000 deaths each year that can be attributed to asthma, and asthma can be considered a contributing factor for an additional 7,000 deaths per year.

Asthma attacks definitely meet criteria for a traumatic event according to the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. First, asthma attacks may be life-threatening or cause physical harm. In addition, the unexpected nature of an asthma attack, as well as the physical symptoms that accompany an asthma attack, may bring about feelings of fear, helpless, and horror. Given this, asthma can definitely be considered a potentially life-threatening illness that could lead to the development of PTSD symptoms.

You can learn more about the relationship between PTSD and asthma attacks in this article from About.com.

Coping with Flashbacks

Thursday May 30, 2013

Many people with PTSD struggle in coping with flashbacks. Flashbacks are considered one of the re-experiencing symptoms of PTSD. In a flashback, a person may feel or act as though a traumatic event is happening again. A flashback may be temporary and some connection with the present moment may be maintained, or a person may lose all awareness of what is going on around him, being taken completely back to their traumatic event.

Flashbacks may occur as a result of encountering triggers, or a reminder of a traumatic event. To the extent that people are not aware of their triggers, flashbacks can be incredibly disruptive and unpredictable events that are difficult to manage. However, you can take steps to better manage and prevent flashbacks. Learn more about some healthy ways of managing flashbacks in this article from About.com.

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