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More to PTSD than a mental condition

Beep! Beep! Beep! BEEP! The nurses were quite used to the incessant beeping. But we weren’t used to it.

With my heart racing, I jetted over to the IV machine to silence it. I knew sudden sounds would, at the least, startle my dad, if not leave his nervous system rattled and scared, wondering what may be coming next.

Worried about the next time the alarm may sound, I decided to sit next to the machine with my hand on the silence button as Dad lay there fighting the biggest fight he had ever fought since Vietnam. Feeling terribly sick from the chemo and other drugs the IV machine systematically fed him, the last thing he needed was for his nervous system to be shocked by loud beeping from a machine.

One of my first signs that Dad was slipping away was when he stopped jolting from the sound of the machine in ICU. Dad had post-traumatic stress disorder.

He had PTSD for his whole adult life before finally understanding why he had unpredictable fits of rage, would cower to the ground with a balloon popping and refused to sit facing a wall at a restaurant.

Nearly one-third of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD, and soldiers from more recent wars suffer as well, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The standard definition of PTSD is that it is a mental condition that occurs after a person has suffered significant trauma.

My argument is that it is much more than a mental condition. PTSD is a whole systems disorder that affects primarily the nervous system.

It can create further problems such as depression, anxiety, difficulty in relationships, digestive problems, physical pain and more.

While this troubling disorder can wreak havoc in several aspects of health, there is a ray of hope for effective treatment.

Because our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health is intertwined, there are various avenues to pursue to break the traumatic cascade of events that happens with PTSD. The key is to understand that the body remembers trauma at various levels, even at the cellular level, and that there is the possibility of changing the way the body remembers the trauma.

Once we change how the body physiologically remembers trauma, we can reduce symptoms associated with PTSD.

One intervention that can help facilitate healing of PTSD is acupuncture.

Some studies show that acupuncture, particularly auricular (ear) acupuncture, is one of the most effective modalities used to treat PTSD as it reduces anxiety and other signs of stress.

Acupuncture seems to relax the nervous system nearly completely, which provides a break from nervous energy and allows space for healing to occur.

The mechanism of action as to why it helps remains unknown, but veterans across the country are experiencing the benefits of integrating acupuncture into their care routines.

Other therapies such as homeopathy and counseling can also help.

“Homeopathy can help PTSD by finding a homeopathic remedy that matches the experience of the patient’s suffering,” according to homeopath Joseph Ellerin.

By matching a remedy to symptoms, homeopathy can break the energetic bond the trauma has left in the system. Because each person with PTSD has a unique health picture, the exact protocol of treatment shifts from patient to patient.

Clinical mental health counselor Leslie Kittel emphasizes that PTSD can affect people of all ages and walks of life.

“Psychotherapy and the integration of creative arts within counseling can be greatly beneficial to a person suffering from PTSD,” she says. “By expressing emotions non-verbally, a person is able to process and deal with trauma in a safe and creative environment, bringing healing to the mind, body and soul.”

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