Mental Health – Complex PTSD

In case you missed the first two, this is the third post about mental health. While not actually necessary to read them in order it may be helpful in the over all context. I am going to give the low down on this before doing the post about my experience.

When discussing PTSD most people immediately think of active or veteran military, combat situations, being shot at, seeing your teammates blown up by bombs like in the movies. Those people would be right, but there are at least two different types of PTSD, the standard PTSD following traumatic events (either in combat or perhaps domestic violence, severe motor vehicle accidents and natural disasters) and Complex PTSD. PTSD occurs after one traumatic event, C-PTSD occurs after numerous events, usually within childhood.

Let me first say that of course not every person who is in combat, a victim of domestic violence or a natural disaster will get PTSD. It’s this tricky thing that happens when your brain doesn’t want to or cannot process the trauma being thrown at you. On the surface you may get agitated more easily, anxious, maybe depressed, not interested in doing things in public or shying away from the things that somehow remind you of the trauma. I am not going to pretend to know what the members of the military who suffer from PTSD shy away from, but I know that people who suffer domestic violence at the hand of their spouse, significant other (once out of that relationship) most likely find it difficult to trust another person in that role. MVAs (motor vehicle accidents) can cause PTSD, this results in said person becoming more tense or anxious when in a car, nervous about driving through certain areas or intersections, perhaps squealing at perceived threats (don’t judge me).

According to the National Center for PTSD’s website “in some cases people experience chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.”

So Complex PTSD is not your standard PTSD, it is chronic trauma over the course of months or years, repeated trauma. It does not need to be the same trauma happening either. It can be domestic violence, bullying, childhood neglect, a car accident, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and numerous other variations. It’s complex for a reason. Most frequently, as a result of this chronic trauma, people who suffer from C-PTSD have negative self-conceptions.

PTSD can change the biology of the brain, causing hypersensitivity in the Amygdala which causes a person to see more things as threats. The hippocampus, in charge of converting short term memory to long term can shrink.  Finally, decreasing blood flow to the prefrontal cortex’s left side (memory and language) and increasing on the right side which can cause mood swings.

C-PTSD has all the symptoms of PTSD but also includes more. Dissociation are the traumatic events, impaired ability to form healthy relationships, loss of meaning for life or even religious connections. Somatization, “psychological pain is “converted” into physical pain-digestive issues, migraines, or otherwise unexplained physical symptoms.”

People trying to deal or not deal with the trauma in a healthy way can have addictive behaviors, drinking, drug use, and emotional eating are a few. Self injury or harm is one of the more serious addictive things that can occur with C-PTSD patients. Looking at this from the outside I could see how inflicting pain on yourself to deal with the helplessness of the pain inflicted on a person by others would be a sort of self control for the trauma.

There are many old school and new evolving approaches to treating both types of PTSD. I encourage everyone to see out a mental health expert to work on moving through the trauma. I have worked through my regular PTSD with my therapist and we are starting to work on my Complex PTSD. It’s not going to be an easy task but I firmly believe everyone should have a chance to live their best, happiest life with a positive self conception. It may take me a while but I am working towards that goal.

As always, when discussing medical information the links are at the bottom of the page. I would love to hear from you, comments, questions, suggestions.


Therapeutic Yoga – what’s this now?

As I prepare my next post, which will cover Complex PTSD, I read about therapeutic Yoga.

At first glance I was expecting just yoga, so I assumed ok that’s great, everyone should stretch, blah blah blah.

Therapeutic Yoga however is about mindfulness and not focused on poses or rather, the strictness that is “the proper pose”. Intrigued, I read more.

Using this form of yoga can help with all kinds of PTSD and mindfulness in general. Not focusing on form, it helps those who tend to be more critical of themselves, and with no mirrors it sets the environment to be gentle and nonjudgemental.

There is research on how this form of yoga, in addition to working with a therapist can greatly benefit those who suffer from PTSD.

While there are places you can find to do therapeutic Yoga, I’m personally considering doing this as part of my daily routine. As a female who grew up in a time of Barbies, super thin models and Baywatch I have often struggled with self-esteem and loving my body for what it can do, only seeing where it fails.

What do you do for mindfulness? Is there something you love and helps you? I’d love to hear it!

Mental Health/Illness – Removing Stigma

In the second post of the series I want to address the stigma related to mental illness and getting help. Buckle up and get comfy because this post has a lot of information. The last post kind of explained where my first brush with anxiety and mental health came from. For this post, I am going to back away and give you the stats.

According to a 2014 Newsweek article, “nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness each year”. One in Five (42.5 million American adults), just let that settle for a moment. I know I don’t hear about my circle of friends talking about their mental health freely and openly like it’s so normal. These numbers came from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), I am fairly certain they are not running around an polling every person.

I also know that due to stigma there are many people who suffer in silence, afraid to speak up and get any kind of help. The US Surgeon General stated in 1999 that: “Powerful and pervasive, stigma prevents people from acknowledging their own mental health problems, much less disclosing them to others”

Per NAMI’s (National Alliance of Mental Illness) website the number of Americans with Mental Illness is now 46.6 Million, that’s 4.1 Million increase in five years.

Let’s break this down, according to DSM-IV, a mental disorder is a psychological syndrome or pattern which is associated with distress (e.g. via a painful symptom), disability (impairment in one or more important areas of functioning), increased risk of death, or causes a significant loss of autonomy; however it excludes normal responses such as grief from loss of a loved one, and also excludes deviant behavior for political, religious, or societal reasons not arising from a dysfunction in the individual.

If you go strictly by the DSM-IV it would appear that only the most debilitating, classified issues are mental illness. What about anxiety, general depression and countless others? According to the National Institute Mental Health (NIMH) they break these down into “Any Mental Illness” and “Serious Mental Illness”.

“Any mental illness (AMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment (e.g., individuals with serious mental illness as defined below).

Serious mental illness (SMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. The burden of mental illnesses is particularly concentrated among those who experience disability due to SMI.”

Per NIMH, 19.1% of American adults (18+) have some sort of anxiety disorder, 6.8% of adults have had PTSD in their lifetime. This isn’t just military and/or combat either, this includes domestic violence, accidents, natural or human caused disasters and a variety of other factors. World Health Organization (WHO) reports 25% of the world’s population from some form of mental illness. Why aren’t we discussing this more? Why does it take extreme acts to bring these issues to the forefront of the news stations?

If we remove the stigma of discussing mental health at an early age then perhaps more people would get the help they need and less people would feel isolated to the point of completing suicide or violence against others.

Now, what about a chronic illness and mental health? I currently have three diagnosis that are chronic, with no cure and you better believe that gives me anxiety. Harvard health put up an article that discussed anxiety and chronic illness, though for some reason they only looked at respiratory, GI and heart disease. Personally, I think they overlooked a huge portion of the demographic here but it is what it is. Worrying about your health, cost of health if you are in the United States and not one of the amazing countries where it’s free for everyone, the impact it has on your family and friends, of course you are going to have anxiety, any normal person would.

Depression is also increased for those with a chronic illness, per the NIMH website the most common are among the below:

  • Cancer
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

If you aren’t convinced yet that you should seek help if you suffer from anxiety, depression or another mental illness, just know, that constant “fight or flight” from anxiety is bad for your body and your brain. Depression and anxiety can increase inflammation in your body, mess up your stress hormones, interfere with your heart rate and circulation.

According to the National MS Society’s website grief, depression and anxiety are all very common mood changes that happen with a diagnosis. Obviously because the way MS hits people differently, different symptoms, degrees of the symptoms not everyone may get anxiety or depression. The anxiety stems from the unknowing of what is to come, how you will be any given day and the extent of your symptoms which can change at the drop of a hat.

Increased stress makes symptoms worse, which can make anxiety and depression worse. When your nerves and myelin is being attacked like frayed wires there will be an impact.

I encourage everyone to talk about mental health, mental illness and get a therapist. We need to remove the stigma of this silent thing happening to so many people so it is no longer the dirty little secret but part of a normal conversation.

Straight of the NAMI website,

Prevalence of Mental Illness

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.2
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3
  • 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.4
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.5
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.6
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.7
  • Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.8

Tips to Ease Anxiety, an Often Overlooked Effect of MS