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First of all, PTSD is not an illness, but an injury. When you get a cut or a bruise, it changes your body chemistry, right? You may bleed, discolor, or hurt. It may be raised. These changes occurred BECAUSE of an injury.
 
PTSD actually changes the brain chemistry. The area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which helps you distinguish between past and present memories shrinks (thus you don’t distinguish current car backfiring versus old gunshot). The area of the brain which is responsible for putting you in fight flight; protecting you from potential danger, known as the amygdala, has increased activity (causing the shaky feeling you get and the increased heartrate and breathing). The part of the brain which helps you regulate emotions and think logically, known as the prefrontal cortex also shrinks (causing you not to think logically, but think emotionally). The part of the brain which deals with panic and anxiety called the basal ganglia has increased activity (causing an increased hyper-startle response). The part of the brain which regulates emotion and processing called the Cingulate Gyrus is overactive (increasing feelings of guilt, second guessing, worry, and more). Finally, the part of the brain which plays a role in both motor function and some cognitive function known as the Cerebellum is overactive (this is where the increased hyper-startle response comes from).
 
Just like a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may cause people’s emotions or behaviors to change, PTSD will cause emotional and behavioral changes as noted above. The difference between a TBI and PTSD is your brain may or may not recover from a TBI, whereas you can recover from PTSD. This was not believed until recently as we learn more about the brain. With PTSD, you do not have to just manage symptoms any longer.
 
The good news about this type of injury is the changes in the brain may not be permanent. The sooner you seek help, the faster and more fully you will heal.
 
It is vital for you to understand that you are not sick or weak. Nothing is “wrong” with you. The purpose of the amygdala is to keep you alive. The amygdala will send out warning signals that what you’re about to do or what’s about to happen is life threatening. This happens whether the danger is real or not. The signal starts with adrenalin pumping through your body giving you the energy you need to survive by running or fighting.
 
Logic is turned off at this time. Thinking first could mean the difference between life and death. This is a primitive part of our brain which was very useful many years ago, but did not evolve as fast as the rest of humanity did.
 
So how do you heal from PTSD? First, keep in mind that nothing heals overnight. The process of healing takes time. The very first thing you need to do when the fight/flight takes over is make the logic part of your brain regain control of the situation. Once you do this, you can do what you KNOW you need or should do.
 
You will not stop the shakiness by turning on logic. The adrenalin is a chemical and is like having alcohol in your system. It does not go away just because you drink water. Once logic is turned on, you can act intentionally instead of emotionally.
 
That is the number one secret of getting out of fight/flight. Make logic regain control.
 
Turning logic on includes techniques such as any slow breathing technique which connects the body and brain in a calm state. Once you can think about what you “should” do, it is time to act intentionally: Do some exercise, yoga, meditation, muscle relaxation, distracting thoughts, etc.
 
Remember how I said you will not heal overnight? Don’t expect the breathing and getting out of fight flight to work miracles for you. The brain still wants to protect you and will set off the alarm at anything that could possibly, in the slightest, be dangerous. These skills get you out of fight/flight. They do not prevent it.
 
If your symptoms are frequent, or bothersome, therapy is the next step on your healing from this injury. Therapy can help the hippocampus distinguish between past memories and present, thus preventing current fight/flight symptoms from past experiences.
You are normal. You are strong. You deserve a life free of PTSD symptoms. Head on over to my blog page to read more of my blogs regarding PTSD.

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