Part One: how-does-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-change-the-brain by Viatcheslav Wlassoff, PhD

Medial prefrontal dysfunction in PTSD. There was a failure of medial prefrontal activation in a group of combat veterans with PTSD compared to combat veterans without PTSD during exposure to traumatic combat related slides and sounds (yellow area in prefrontal 

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Child abuse. Rape. Sexual assault. Brutal physical attack. Being in a war and witnessing violence, bloodshed, and death from close quarters. Near death experiences. These are extremely traumatic events, and some victims bear the scars for life.

The physical scars heal, but some emotional wounds stop the lives of these people dead in their tracks. They are afraid to get close to people or form new relationships.

Change terrifies them, and they remain forever hesitant to express their needs or desire to meet their creative potential. It may not be always apparent, but post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stifles the life force out of its victims.

It is no use telling them to “get over” it because PTSD fundamentally changes the brain’s structure and alters its functionalities. (This is why sharing our trauma with others turns out bad)

What goes on inside the brains of people with PTSD?

PTSD is painful and frightening. The memories of the event linger and victims often have vivid flashbacks. Frightened and traumatized, they are almost always on edge, and the slightest of cues sends them hurtling back inside their protective shells. (We have to resist this with all the energy and courage we can muster.)

Usually, victims try to avoid people, objects, and situations that remind them of their hurtful experiences—this behavior is debilitating and prevents them from living their lives meaningfully.

Many victims forget the details of the incident, presumably in an attempt to lessen the blow. But this coping mechanism has negative repercussions as well. Without accepting and reconciling with “reality,” they turn into fragmented souls.

Extensive neuroimaging studies on the brains of PTSD patients show that several regions differ structurally and functionally from those of healthy individuals.

The amygdala, the hippocampus, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex play a role in triggering the typical symptoms of PTSD.

These regions collectively impact the stress response mechanism in humans, so that the PTSD victim, even long after their experience, continues to perceive and respond to stress differently than someone who is not suffering the aftermath of trauma.

Effect of trauma on the hippocampus

The most significant neurological impact of trauma is seen in the hippocampus. PTSD patients show a considerable reduction in the volume of the hippocampus.

This region of the brain is responsible for memory functions. It helps an individual to record new memories and retrieve them later in response to specific and relevant environmental stimuli. (Our memories such, are biased and inaccurate )

The hippocampus also helps us distinguish between past and present memories.

PTSD patients with reduced hippocampal volume lose the ability to discriminate between past and present experiences or correctly interpret environmental contexts.

The particular neural mechanisms involved trigger extreme stress responses when confronted with environmental situations that only remotely resemble something from their traumatic past.

For example, this is why a sexual assault victim may be terrified of parking lots because she was once raped in a similar place. (Our triggers seem mundane but hold more fear than we can s5and, that is why we run, avoid, distort and deny)

Or a war veteran cannot watch violent movies because they remind them of his trench days; their hippocampus cannot minimize the interference of past memories. ( I can not watch many movies, I scroll and scroll feeling triggered. We do not get to pick our triggers)

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on August 12, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    This is a powerfully accurate explanation for why I feel what I feel and how even now seemingly unrelated events can set off a trigger. My therapist has pointed out on several occasions there are many years from ‘then’ to the present day. However all those leftovers, the self-protective behaviors run the show. With therapy and connection to material such as this blog, I find that on some days, my world expands a bit. However, PTSD always is running in the background armed with a hairpin trigger.

  2. You are the only follower to respond

    This is heavy-duty stuff

    Make those who tell us just let it go seem clueless

    This post scares me

    To know how messed up physically I am

  3. Posted by rudid96 on August 12, 2021 at 5:08 pm

    PTSD IS scary! I’ve been told before “it’s over”, “let it go already”, “you’re NOT what happened to you.” To this last one, I humbly respond “BS!” I AM what happened to me. The caveat here for all of us actively working to live beyond the PTSD & C-PTSD is that we’re what happened to us and working towards finding ways to be more than what it damaged. That my friend is our living legacy.

  4. Posted by rudid96 on August 12, 2021 at 5:09 pm

    Oh, and I just forgot to add in my above post, On some days I’m more successful than on other days.

  5. You are a mirror of my journey has the same divots

    I have hope today again

    I can be happy

    I desire little Redud96

    Most things are impermanent anyway

    Ptsd can take everything away at times

  6. Night and day

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