Can Traumatic Memories Be Changed?

Experiences that are distressing, painful and, perhaps, even traumatic are unavoidable in life. But are there ways we can work with people to prevent memories of traumatic events from developing into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)? One possibility that’s being investigated for accomplishing this is a method called “updating.” This approach uses verbal techniques to change how traumatic memories are consolidated in the brain. Basically, “updating” tries to decrease the conditioned fear response that can lead to PTSD. You see, there’s a period of time known as the “consolidation window,” when fear memories are being established and strengthened in the brain….

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Injury, Illness, and PTSD

Does serious illness increase the risk of developing PTSD? We wrote about this topic back in 2011. At that time, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reported that 20-51% of patients who suffered musculoskeletal injuries went on to develop PTSD. Another study, from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, found that 36-45% of the 121 ovarian cancer survivors in their longitudinal study experienced PTSD at some point between the start of their chemotherapy treatments and their 3-month post-treatment follow-up appointment. Overall, that’s a lot of patients developing PTSD after undergoing treatment for illness or injury….

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A Different Way to Handle Stress – Can Brain Science Help?

Stress – it’s often (if not always) a regular part of life. But everyone handles it differently, and many people are frequently on the search for ways to deal with it more effectively. Now, while stress triggers are usually different from person to person, the brain is actually hardwired to process stress in a certain way. So sometimes, this hardwiring can make stress feel more intense – and the reactivity that can come along with it often only compounds the problem. In this video clip, Rick Hanson, PhD explains why the brain is wired this way, and what needs to…

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Can Fear of Happiness Get in the Way of Healing?

Why is it so hard to get people to follow through on strategies that are good for them? Patient noncompliance can be one of the greatest roadblocks that keeps people from achieving their goals. And I recently came across some new research that might hold a clue to what holds some people back. You see, for some of our patients, the fear of experiencing a positive outcome might actually be stronger than their desire to heal. Now this isn’t really a new idea, but what is new is that it’s starting to be evaluated by researchers. A 2014 British Journal…

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Trauma and the Brain: Why Congress is Finally Helping Traumatized Veterans

On February 12, 2015, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The purpose of this act is to provide help to US veterans suffering from PTSD. This legislation provides funding for the study of new trauma treatment strategies as well as for recruiting more mental health practitioners to work with veterans. When the bill was voted on, it passed with no opposition. I believe this action highlights a massive shift in thinking within this country over the past few decades. You see, my generation is sometimes referred to as a lost generation. Thousands of young…

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Fear, Self-Esteem, and the Power of Touch

How crucial is the power of touch in developing a healthy sense of self-esteem . . . . . . and what role do these play in how people respond to fear? To answer these questions, Dr. Sander L. Koole and a team of researchers at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands conducted a series of studies looking at whether interpersonal touch might help people who have low self-esteem when they’re reminded of their own mortality. You see, Dr. Koole and his team had looked at a body of research called Terror Management Theory. Previous studies stemming from this theory…

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