PTSD and Trauma
Have you experienced trauma in your life, as a child or adult? Do you still struggle with anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts, poor sleep, fear numbness, or codependence?
Trauma can affect anyone at any age, coming from one event (e.g., an accident or an assault) or multiple events of long duration (e.g., abandonment, neglect, shaming, chronic abuse, bullying, and attending accident scenes). Peoples’ reactions to trauma can include a wide range of emotions, thoughts and experiences. Common symptoms may include: emotional flashbacks, tyrannical inner/outer critic, toxic shame, self-abandonment, social anxiety, feelings of loneliness and abandonment, relationship difficulties, mood swings, fight/flight response, oversensitivity and suicidal ideations. Rather, PTSD is often your brain’s way of trying to regain control after a trauma. The stress reaction (aka fight, flight, freeze and fawn response) has been activated by the trauma you experienced, and your brain is finding that it cannot toggle to relaxation. Luckily, there are many forms of treatment for PTSD that are extremely effective at helping manage and reduce this stress response.
Changes that occur to the fear and vigilance areas of the brain that lead it to be in a constant state of stress can be rewired. Different forms of psychotherapy can be helpful at decreasing some of these reactions through desensitization strategies, including exposure, cognitive processing, and other forms of trauma-focused psychotherapy.
Neurotherapy is different from traditional forms of treatment in that it allows the practitioner to observe reduce the excitation of fear networks while replacing the learned maladaptive stress response. With the aid of the QEEG analyses an individual is provided with information so that they can retrain the specific areas of their brain that have become trapped in the misguided stress response. What is unique about Neurotherapy is that it addresses the problem at its source, thus working to regulate the problematic brain activity that got stuck in a dysregulated pattern and is causing an individual’s painful experiences and symptoms.
BRAIN PATTERNS AND PTSD
Patterns associated with PTSD are usually interpreted as excessive processing activity, and indicates that the cortex typically speeds up mental activity to suppress amygdala over-arousal, perhaps blocking medial forebrain bundle circuits. The patterns associated with PTSD vary and a precise distribution has not emerged. However, when a person experiences fear, beta often dominates as a compensatory mechanism to shut down panic. Sufferers with PTSD tend to show an overactivation of the autonomic nervous system and brain imaging has shown this overactivation in some key areas of the brain such as the amygdala (our fear and negative emotion part of the brain) and the right hemisphere in general. There also tends to be underactivation in some areas, such as the hippocampus (which is associated with memory).
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT WITH NEUROTHERAPY?
Clients who have completed Neurotherapy training often say that it was helpful because prior to the training, they were always taught and encouraged to “relax”, but no matter what they did they could not shut off their brain, to get to that calm, non-reactive state. With Neurotherapy they could feel their brain and bodies finding that calm state. They could feel themselves become less reactive to situations and begin to enjoy more experiences in their life. Research has shown that Individuals who have completed Neurotherapy for PTSD often report a reduction in frequency of nightmares, flashbacks and less feelings of fear and panic (Othmer & Othmer, 2009). Individuals feel calmer, less reactive to situations and are better able to enjoy life experiences.
RESEARCH ON NEUROFEEDBACK & PTSD
There has been some recent, groundbreaking research on PTSD and brain functioning, as well as the effects of Neurotherapy on improving brain functioning.
Plastic Modulation of PTSD Resting-state Networks and Subjective Wellbeing by EEG Neurofeedback.
Kleutsch, R.C., et al. (2013). Plastic Modulation of PTSD Resting-state Networks and Subjective Wellbeing by EEG Neurofeedback. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia, 1-14.
Recently a very exciting and innovative study from Western University has demonstrated that Neurofeedback training was associated with improvements in patients and correlations to changes in brain activity.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – The Neurofeedback Remedy.
Othmer, S., Othmer, S.F. (2009). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – The Neurofeedback Remedy. Biofeedback, 37, 24-31.
Read the following description of the benefits of Neurofeedback for PTSD along with the presentation of two cases. This article is written by Siegfried and Susan Othmer, two pioneers in the field of Neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback: A noninvasive treatment for symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in veterans.
Mcreynolds, C., Bell, J., & Lincourt, T. (2017). Neurofeedback: A noninvasive treatment for symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in veterans. NeuroRegulation, 4(3-4), 114-124.
A Randomized Controlled Study of Neurofeedback for Chronic PTSD
Kolk, B. A., Hodgdon, H., Gapen, M., Musicaro, R., Suvak, M. K., Hamlin, E., & Spinazzola, J. (2016). A Randomized Controlled Study of Neurofeedback for Chronic PTSD. Plos One,11(12)