Daily Archives: May 9, 2016

Interesting Article.

“The effects of childhood sexual and physical abuse lasts a lifetime” – Scott Mendelson MD – Huffington Post.

The effects of childhood sexual and physical abuse last a lifetime. Abused children may grow up to be adults prone to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other psychiatric disorders. They are more prone to suicide. However, in recent years we have learned that abuse does more than wound self-esteem and break the spirit. It can damage the very substance of the brain and how it functions.

A major way by which childhood abuse can disrupt normal brain activity is by diminishing its capacity to handle stress. Stress is more than the worry and distress we experience when the circumstances of life push us beyond our limits. The body’s response to stress is a complex biological mechanism. When the brain senses that the body is being taxed beyond its usual capacity, it initiates the stress response by releasing a substance called corticotrophin releasing hormone, or CRH. CRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release ACTH that, in turn, triggers the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, from the adrenal glands. Cortisol marshals the body’s resources to provide the extra energy and endurance to meet the demands being placed upon it. Once, this might have been escaping an angry mastodon. Today, it would more likely be getting used to a new job, a nasty divorce, or recovering from surgery.

The stress-induced switch into physiological overdrive is designed to be brief. In fact, among the many things that cortisol does in the body, one of the most important is to feed back to the brain and start to shut the stress response down. Cortisol does this by binding to specific receptors in the brain. Cortisol fits the receptor, like a key in a lock, and turns the response off. One of the problems in those that have suffered severe, childhood abuse is that the brain’s turn-off switch for the stress response is disabled

A study published in 2009 in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience revealed part of the reason why adults who were abused as children have abnormal stress responses. The grim details of the study included comparisons of the brains of individuals who had committed suicide vs. those who had died natural deaths. Among those who had committed suicide were some who had suffered severe childhood abuse and others who had not. It was found that among those who had suffered abuse, there were fewer of the special cortisol receptors in the brain that allow cortisol to turn off the stress response. It was further found that the section of DNA responsible for maintaining adequate numbers of these receptors had been methylated. They were no longer in full operation.

When the stress response won’t shut off and cortisol levels remain high in the brain, bad things can happen. Whereas bursts of cortisol help bolster the brain’s supply of glucose and chemical messengers, sustained high levels of cortisol can cause damage. Cortisol diminishes the brain’s response to the chemical messenger, serotonin, while it enhances the response to norepinephrine. Persisting high levels of cortisol also decrease levels of Brain-derived Neurotrophic factor, a substance that is necessary to maintain and replenish neurons in the brain. These and other changes alter mood, disturb sleep, heighten anxiety, and cause irritability. Consequently, the individual becomes more prone to Major Depression, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.

3 Cups

PTSD & STRESS – PTSD Stress Cup Theory

The PTSD Cup Theory

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This explains why people with PTSD, cannot cope with the same amount of (brain) stress, as people without PTSD.

‘Brain Stress’ is anything the brain has to do for us to function.

This will include all we do unconsciously, like our internal organs working, breathing, moving, food digestion etc.

It also includes good and bad stress we deal with daily. Good stress, being anything the brain processes not causing negative emotions – eg taking a shower. Bad stress being anything that does cause negative emotions, like naughty children, noise (big PTSD stressors).

Cup/Diagram 1.

This shows the daily good stress, everyone’s brains deal with daily.

Cup/Diagram 2.

This shows the added bad stress, everyone deals with daily. As you can see, there is still room left for added good or bad stress, before the cup ‘overflows’.

The cup ‘overflowing’ – will be when the person can’t cope emotionally and becomes irritable, angry, tearful etc.

Cup/Diagram 3.

This shows the added PTSD brain ‘stress’ – a PTSD brain is dealing with – added to all the normal good and bad stress everyone has.

There is very little room left for any added good or bad stress, to occur.

Which is why people with PTSD don’t cope well, with added stress and can get very irritable, fast and quickly over minor things.

This is described a being when the ‘cup overflows’. In order to reduce this overflowing, no stress can be occurring, so the ‘cup empties’ a little, back to having room for daily stress again.

I know when my cup is overflowing, as I start to become irritable, and I know my coping capacity, reduces, quickly and stressors like noise, irritate me more than normal.

I have learned to reduce my daily activities, have relaxing time, and not plan too many things in one day.

I have learned to have relaxation time before anything anxiety/stress raising, and have relax time afterwards.

Along with all the breathing, mindfulness strategies, this is how I have learned to manage my ‘cup overflowing’.

I have to do this, because if my ‘cup overflows’ continually, my mood lowers, my emotions increase and all my complex PTSD symptoms then increase as a result, which results in complete incapacity, to cope and can become life threatening. PTSD – is a life threatening disorder, when severe.

It is why I always say, you will not learn to manage your PTSD well, if you have a busy, stressful daily life. Which cannot always be avoided, I understand, but it is essential for PTSD management, to have the least stressful life possible. Especially if the PTSD symptoms are severe, and while first learning to manage them.