941-462-4807 meg@megyounglcsw.com

Many people believe that PTSD is not real. That it is hyped up. Other people believe that it is real, but can be (and should be) controlled and if you don’t, then you are either weak or looking for attention.
When we believe these statements, it makes us feel worse. It makes us feel more isolated and more crazy. It makes us feel less human. When we feel this way, so many areas of our lives are impacted. We start to notice changes in many other areas of our lives.
The problem with this is PTSD and the stigma attached to it negatively play on each other. They come together and make the monster even bigger. They feed on each other making the situation worse.
Perhaps you noticed withdrawing more because being around crowds was making you anxious. However, the more you avoided going out, the lonelier you felt. The lonelier you felt the more irritable you became. The more irritable you became the less you wanted to hang out with people.
At the time you may not have noticed it until it became a much bigger issue. At the time you may have felt justified in not hanging out. Or you might have felt frustrated that nobody understood you.
Unfortunately, when we (or others) believe that we should be strong and be able to pull out of PTSD symptoms without trouble, it just isolates us more.
Eventually you find yourself feeling completely alone and unsure of yourself. You start to question whether you are strong. Whether these symptoms are just “in my head.” You start to question whether you are fit for the job you are doing (whether career, or family, or otherwise). You start to wonder if you are normal.
The truth is you are not crazy. Everything you are going through has a reason. It is completely normal to have emotional AND behavioral changes with PTSD. You are not alone and you are ok.
Although you are feeling unsure and questioning everything right now, I promise that you will not only understand PTSD better, but gain confidence that you can regain your old self again. When you learn just a few realities of what happens physiologically in the brain when you develop PTSD, you will start to see that your emotions and behaviors are actually NORMAL and you CAN change them. You are not doomed to a life of isolation and fear.
Keep reading to learn 4 big changes that the brain goes through when it develops PTSD
The biggest problem we have as a society is jumping to conclusions and not learning/educating ourselves. Sometimes this is out of fear – we don’t always want to know the truth, sometimes it is out of sheer ignorance – we just don’t know what we don’t know, and there are a variety of other reasons we jump to conclusions before hearing the truth.
Then, if we believed something for so long, changing that belief is incredibly hard. How long did it take before the world believed that the world was round? This concept took a very long time before it became fact and “normal.”
Living in ignorance can be a comfortable place because it is known. Whatever we hear first (and enough) we tend to believe. So changing that belief to the opposite is incredibly difficult and it takes time. It is important not to give up on yourself or on humanity’s ability to learn and grow.
Although you struggle with all of the emotional and behavioral symptoms of PTSD, you have the potential to get your life back.
Your brain is very adaptable and you have the ability to live life according to your terms.
When we choose to educate ourselves about the four biggest changes that happen to the brain with PTSD, we are choosing to take action. To learn and to grow. We are ready to take the bull by the horns and take back our lives. This is because when understand something, it is much easier to take action on it. Unknowns are scary.
Learning what these changes in the brain are is only the first step, however. Then it is on you to do something about it. It is on you to take this knowledge and run with it. To gain power over it. To grow from it and get your brain to rewire itself – again.
Yes it’s true you are frustrated and worried about PTSD and it’s effects on you and your life. But with education comes the ability to make change. Once we learn about something, we understand it better and can really take action. It is hard to take action when we don’t truly understand something.
Take a look at these 4 biggest changes to the brain when PTSD develops.
1. Cingulate Gyrus: The Cingulate Gyrus is responsible for processing emotion and regulating behavior. When someone develops PTSD, their Cingulate Gyrus is overactive. This causes an increase in feelings of guilt and worry. It causes one to second guess themselves, become more argumentative or oppositional, and become more prone to holding grudges.
Have you noticed any of these changes in yourself? Have you wondered why you are holding grudges when you never had before? Do you berate yourself because you never second guessed yourself before?
When the Cingulate Gyrus is overactive, it is unable to effectively help you process emotion or regulate behavior. Thus your emotions and behaviors are more uncontrolled.
2. Cerebellum: The Cerebellum is responsible for movement and balance. When someone develops PTSD, the Cerebellum is also overactive. This is where your increased startle response comes from. When the brain detects something potentially dangerous, the Cerebellum activates the muscle movement or jumpiness that happens.
When the Cerebellum is overactive, we do not have control over the physiological response that happens from our startle response. We need to help the Cerebellum settle down so it is not overactive causing an increased amount of motor movement.
3. Basal Ganglia: The Basal Ganglia are a bunch of neurons responsible for processing movement related information. For example when you need to lift your foot to go up a stair, the brain takes in that there is a step there. The basal ganglia talk to the leg muscles telling it to move in a certain way allowing you to go up the stair. They also process information related to emotions, motivations, and cognitive functions. When the basal ganglia is over reactive, we experience more panic and anxiety symptoms.
4. Amygdala: The amygdala is associated with our automatic responses. The amygdala is a storage facility for our experiences and an alarm system. When we experience something bad (for example putting a hand on a hot stove), the amygdala takes in this experience as bad. Next time we see a hot stove, we remember it, and don’t touch it. When something very bad happens, our amygdala knows this as potentially life threatening and prepares us for survival by setting off the alarm through sending cortisol (or adrenalin) into the body, giving us the energy we need to fight or run.
When we have PTSD, the amygdala is basically a broken alarm system. You turn it off by telling yourself you are safe, but low and behold it goes off again…and again…even when we are not in danger.
All four of these structures are located in the Limbic System of the brain and work together. When there is a potentially threatening situation, all four systems work together to do the best it can to keep the body alive. It is a very complicated and intricate process. It is actually a very cool process when you think of it from a purely scientific point of view. However, it is not that cool when you have PTSD and all these systems are overactive in you.
When someone has PTSD, you can actually see these systems in hyperdrive on a SPECT scan. You can actually see the changes in the brain as activity “lights up” on a SPECT scan. You can actually see all of the overactive parts of the brain in someone with PTSD versus someone without PTSD.
Education is only the first part of your journey through healing from PTSD. Knowledge is power. With this power comes the ability to change. When we can actually see something, it makes it more real to us. When we are able to see proof that there is a reality to what is happening, it makes us feel less crazy and more normal.
Achieving resolution from PTSD will take time. The brain is set to survival. It does not want to let the guard down because it is concerned for your survival. If the guard is down, you are less likely to see danger coming and be able to respond quickly to it.
The crazy part about this is we actually respond better to non-dangerous situations when we are calm and not in fight/flight. The experiences that our amygdala stores include experiences we’ve been through personally, things we’ve seen in movies, on TV, in the news, from friends, from co-workers. All of these are still “experiences” and the amygdala stores them.
When the alarm is broken, it doesn’t realize that you are not truly in danger. When we’re not truly in danger but the alarm goes off, we respond as if we are anyway. We do not have control over the automatic responses.
However, with time and therapy, we are actually able to re-wire our brain so that we no longer respond as if we’re in danger when we are not. The brain is very adaptable and can heal so that you keep what you need from experiences, but get rid of the baggage that PTSD brings with it.
Achieving this re-wiring can be a long, but very rewarding journey. You absolutely can get your life, happiness, peace, and sense of control, back while accepting and growing from your experiences.
Meg Young, LCSW specializes in re-wiring the brain, helping it re-adapt to a more effective level of functioning allowing you to live the life you desire and dream of. It is time to take back control of your automatic responses, take control of your brain, and fix the alarm so that you can live the productive and happy life you so crave.
The first call is the hardest part of this process. After that, you and I will work together to help you find the strength to grow and move through this to a place of safety and peace. Call me today to schedule that first appointment. Choose strength today and make that call. 941-462-4807.