Could a Better Night’s Sleep Improve Treatment Outcomes for PTSD?

Is it possible that what happens with trauma patients at night could undermine all the hard work we’ve done with them during the day? Or asked another way, could improved sleep actually enhance our interventions with patients? We know that disrupted sleep patterns and nightmares are common symptoms of PTSD. But a team of researchers from the San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs recently began investigating connections between sleep disturbances and PTSD symptoms. The researchers took an interesting approach in designing this particular study. Building on previous animal studies that showed a connection between fear conditioning and disrupted…

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Two Chemical Reactions That Happen in the Brain during Trauma

When a traumatic event triggers our internal alarm system, the body goes into fight, flight, or freeze . . . . . . but what happens in the brain during trauma? According to Dan Siegel, MD, there are two key chemical reactions to trauma (and one can play a role in actually shrinking part of the brain). Check out the video clip (below) for more – it’s just 4 minutes. Knowing how trauma affects the brain can enhance our interventions for helping patients heal from a traumatic experience. How have you used brain science in your work with traumatized clients?…

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Treating Severe Trauma in Iraq

Trauma doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone, anywhere throughout the world and, unfortunately . . . . . . not everyone has similar access to resources for treating trauma or PTSD. So, what can we do to reach survivors of trauma who have limited access to treatment options? Paul Bolton, MBBS and a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, wanted to test the effects of PTSD treatment provided by workers who had access to few resources and little training opportunities. To complete this study, Bolton coordinated 20 community health workers in Iraq. The…

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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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Neuroplasticity and Trauma: Can Brain Science Give Us a New Perspective on Healing?

The brain can be a powerful ally. Our brains are always looking out for us. They’re wired to help us survive – alerting us to threats and ramping up our amygdala to help us take action. But that same survival trigger makes healing from trauma difficult, says Pat Ogden, PhD. In fact, the very systems that are designed to keep us safe can actually stimulate trauma over and over again. Knowing how to interrupt this cycle is key to treating trauma, and Pat will show us how this Wednesday. Here’s a preview clip – I think you’ll find it fascinating,…

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Coping with Childhood Trauma: A Strategy for Overcoming Increased Risk for HIV

Why is it that 33% to 53% of HIV-infected people have histories of childhood sexual abuse? Many symptoms commonly found among survivors of childhood sexual abuse, such as helplessness, low self-esteem, dissociation, denial, and self-destructiveness are also often seen in conjunction with HIV risk behavior. Studies show that childhood sexual abuse is associated with avoidant coping, which can lead to increased traumatic symptoms. So perhaps changing the coping strategy of people who experienced childhood sexual abuse could be useful? Duke University professor Kathleen J. Sikkema, PhD conducted a study to examine whether a coping intervention could reduce traumatic stress and…

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