Adrenaline and ptsd: The body keeps The score



Adrenaline is one of the hormones that are critical to help us fight back or flee in the face of danger.

Increased adrenaline was responsible for our participants’ dramatic rise in heart rate and blood pressure while listening to their trauma narrative.

Under normal conditions people react to a threat with a temporary increase in their stress hormones.

As soon as the threat is over, the hormones dissipate and the body returns to normal.

The stress hormones of traumatized people, in contrast, take much longer to return to baseline and spike quickly and disproportionately in response to mildly stressful stimuli.

The insidious effects of constantly elevated stress hormones include memory and attention problems, irritability, and sleep disorders.

They also contribute to many long-term health issues, depending on which body system is most vulnerable in a particular individual.

We now know that there is another possible response to threat, which our scans aren’t yet capable of measuring.

Some people simply go into denial:

Their bodies register the threat, but their conscious minds go on as if nothing has happened.

However, even though the mind may learn to ignore the messages from the emotional brain, the alarm signals don’t stop.

The emotional brain keeps working, and stress hormones keep sending signals to the muscles to tense for action or immobilize in collapse.

The physical effects on the organs go unabated until they demand notice when they are expressed as illness.

Medications, drugs and alcohol can temporarily dull or obliterate unbearable sensations and feelings.

But the body keeps score.



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