Integrative Therapies for PTSD

Integrative Therapies for PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that some people suffer after seeing or living through dangerous events that generate fear. This fear triggers fight-or-flight responses to defend against the danger or to avoid it. In PTSD, this reaction is generalized and sustained. As a result, people who have PTSD may feel stressed or [...]

ACUPUNCTURE: This form of Chinese medicine is used to restore normal meridian energy flow. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that some people suffer after seeing or living through dangerous events that generate fear. This fear triggers fight-or-flight responses to defend against the danger or to avoid it.

In PTSD, this reaction is generalized and sustained. As a result, people who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger.

People with PTSD may have the following symptoms:
• Flashbacks: reliving the trauma repeatedly, including physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, nightmares, and frightening thoughts. Anything that reminds a person of the event, such as thoughts, words, objects, or similar situations can trigger these flashbacks.
• Avoidance: avoiding places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience; feeling emotionally numb; a strong sense of guilt; depression; worry; losing interests in previously enjoyed activities; and having trouble recalling the dangerous event or trauma.
• Hyperarousal: being easily startled, feeling tense or anxious, having difficulty sleeping, or having angry outbursts.

Children living with abusive parents or family members, adults living with abusive spouses or partners, or those working in abusive environments can also develop PTSD. Children perceive danger very differently from adults. Due to their sensitivity, children are more vulnerable to traumatic experiences.Many people with PTSD also have more physical health problems of the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and musculoskeletal systems.

Traditional Chinese medicine has the capacity of viewing the human body at its energy level. This form of medicine developed the meridian system, also called Jing-Lo.

There are 14 regular meridians and 8 extraordinary meridians that are responsible for optimal mental and physical functioning. Each meridian system centers in specific organs, has a specific distribution, and is in charge of specific physical and mental functions. As an energy system, meridians are very sensitive to emotional distress, and each meridian system is particularly sensitive to specific emotions.

For example, the kidney-bladder meridians are very sensitive to danger and generate fear. When danger is present, the physical functions of the kidney and bladder meridians will suffer.

The patient will experience pain in the large bones like the lower back, hips, and knees as well as dysfunction in the brain, poor production of blood, sexual dysfunction, and compromised fertility. Early-morning diarrhea and poor bladder control can also be seen.

When people have been repetitively traumatized, anger and resentment accumulate. These emotions primarily affect the liver and gallbladder meridians. As a result, symptoms may appear such as chest pain, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, neck and shoulder pain and spasm, premenstrual syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), uterine fibroids, and breast tumors.

Patients may also suffer from anger outbursts, depression, or panic attacks, and have trouble planning and making decisions.

The above disorders occur at not only the physical level but also at the energy level. The energetic level is most affected, and this results in both physical and mental abnormalities. Therefore, interventions targeting the energy level are needed. In other words, the therapy needs to reach not only the heart and the gut but also the mind.

An integrative approach is required to adequately treat people with PTSD.

First, we need to clearly identify and diagnose the condition and
recognize its primary causes through a thorough evaluation.

Second, a trusting therapeutic relationship between the treating physician and the patient has to be established.

Third, any cognitive distortion and maladaptive behaviors have to be recognized and corrected using cognitive behavior therapy.

Fourth, mind-body techniques like neuro-emotional techniques (NET) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) will help reveal and remove the energetic and neurophysiologic consequences of the trauma.

Fifth, patients need to learn how to reduce stress through meditation and exercises such as tai chi, qigong, and yoga.

Acupuncture is a great tool that unblocks and rebalances the energy dysfunction of the meridians in PTSD patients.

As result of the above interventions, patients should follow healthy dietary advice and eliminate addictive, maladaptive behaviors.

Last but not least, establishing support systems, learning new coping skills, and looking at life from a spiritual perspective can help patients maintain physical and emotional well-being, allowing them to become more resilient to future traumas.

Medications targeting symptoms should be used with caution and on a case-by-case basis. Nutritional supplements can also be helpful.

Dr. Yang is a board-certified psychiatrist and is a fourth-generation doctor of Chinese medicine. His website is TaoInstitute.com

 

By Jingduan Yang, M.D.

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