Post-Traumatic Stress Specialist Broomfield CO

PTSD (post'traumatic stress disorder) has always been associated with combat veterans, but as Laura’s story suggests, they’re not the only victims. In fact, as many as 70 percent of us experience or witness an event that can trigger PTSD—a car crash, a rape, a crime, a natural disaster, abuse. And up to 10 percent of Americans will suffer from it at some point, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

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Broomfield, CO
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Westminster, CO
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Spotlight on Post-Traumatic Stress

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By Julia Van Tine

In her freshman year in college, Laura Curry was raped at a party. Dazed, she wandered the neighborhood until her friends found her. She told no one, and the rapist was never charged.

A few months later the flashbacks began, once while she was kissing a man on a bed. “When he rolled into a position similar to the rapist’s, I freaked,” says Laura, today 39 and a fitness trainer in Minneapolis. “That’s when I knew I needed help.”

Laura consulted a therapist, but talking about the problem didn’t help, she says, and she soon terminated their sessions. The flashbacks continued, and in her sophomore year, another therapist diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric ailment that can occur after experiencing—or even witnessing—a life-threatening event. In the next six years she graduated, landed a job and climbed the corporate ladder, married, and divorced. She also went through seven therapists.

PTSD has always been associated with combat veterans, but as Laura’s story suggests, they’re not the only victims. In fact, as many as 70 percent of us experience or witness an event that can trigger PTSD—a car crash, a rape, a crime, a natural disaster, abuse. And up to 10 percent of Americans will suffer from it at some point, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Symptoms can include flashbacks, jumpiness, insomnia, nightmares, guilt, and emotional numbness. Women are affected twice as often as men, perhaps because they’re more likely to experience the kinds of trauma, like rape and abuse, that can cause PTSD.

It’s not clear why some people develop the disorder and others don’t, but researchers say the brains of sufferers tend to have higher-than-normal levels of stress hormones. The job of one of these, norepinephrine, is to activate the hippocampus, the part of the brain that governs long-term memory. When the hippocampus gets flooded with too much of this chemical, the result may be searing memories experienced as flashbacks or intrusive thoughts.

There’s no standard treatment for PTSD. Some patients benefit from antidepressants, others from different forms of therapy, such as the cognitive-behavioral approach, which aims to change how we feel and behave by changing how we think.

And recently therapists have begun combining cognitive-behavioral therapy with New Age relaxation techniques—with striking results. One theory is that these treatments work by bypassing the more evolved parts of the brain, which govern thought and speech, and engaging its primitive areas, where images, physical sensations, and feelings are experienced.

“It’s in the sensory and emotional channels of the primitive brain where most of the trauma is processed,” says psychotherapist Belleruth Naparstek, a pioneer in the use of guided imagery who wrote Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal, and created programs used to help victims of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombings, and the Columbine tragedy. ...

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