Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog]Recovery from trauma is different for everybody

From the 13 May 2015 post at The Conversation

The very public trials of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and the Colorado theater shooting suspect, James Holmes, put images and stories about these traumatic events once again in front of the public.

During both phases of the Boston Marathon bombing trial, testimony from survivors and first responders, as well as graphic images of the bombing, were front and center on television, the internet, and print media. And survivors of the Colorado theater shooting have vividly described in their trial testimony that night in detail and their terror and anguish seeing loved ones next to them dead or dying.

So what are the psychological and health effects of exposure to traumatic events like these?

What is trauma?

Traumatic events are those experiences that are perceived to be threats to one’s safety or stability and that cause physical, emotional and psychological stress or harm. In other words, these are events that fall outside the range of normal human experience and to which reactions vary according to the individual person.

Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association as the psychological and emotional responses to those terrible events.

Traumatic events aren’t always violent. They can range from moving somewhere new to a mass disaster or even war.

For most people, trauma is experienced during and immediately after the event. But for many, the trauma may be relived for months or even years, as has been the case, for instance, with the aftereffects of the September 11 attacks.

New trauma can bring back old memories

In addition, people with histories of previous trauma such as combat veterans may be more vulnerable to the effects of new traumatic events.

How can people cope with trauma?

What, then, can people do to alleviate the negative aftereffects of such events in order to return to their normal daily lives? The American Psychological Association recommendsmaking connections with others, accepting change, meeting problems head on and taking care of yourself.

It’s also important to remember that one never completely forgets such events, nor do professionals suggest that is the goal of recovery. Healthy recovery involves acknowledging that the events were terrible but at the same time not allowing them to interfere with daily living. Even if, 10 years later, a sudden noise triggers momentary fear.

May 18, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] How chronic stress predisposes brain to mental disorders

From the 11 February 2014 ScienceDaily article

 

Biologists have shown in rats that chronic stress makes stem cells in the brain produce more myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons, possibly affecting the speed of connections between cells as well as memory and learning. This could explain why stress leads to mental illness, such as PTSD, anxiety and mood disorders, later in life.
 …

Does stress affect brain connectivity?

Kaufer’s findings suggest a mechanism that may explain some changes in brain connectivity in people with PTSD, for example. One can imagine, she said, that PTSD patients could develop a stronger connectivity between the hippocampus and the amygdala — the seat of the brain’s fight or flight response — and lower than normal connectivity between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which moderates our responses.

“You can imagine that if your amygdala and hippocampus are better connected, that could mean that your fear responses are much quicker, which is something you see in stress survivors,” she said. “On the other hand, if your connections are not so good to the prefrontal cortex, your ability to shut down responses is impaired. So, when you are in a stressful situation, the inhibitory pathways from the prefrontal cortex telling you not to get stressed don’t work as well as the amygdala shouting to the hippocampus, ‘This is terrible!’ You have a much bigger response than you should.”

Brain structures involved in dealing with fear...

Brain structures involved in dealing with fear and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stress tweaks stem cells

Kaufer’s lab, which conducts research on the molecular and cellular effects of acute and chronic stress, focused in this study on neural stem cells in the hippocampus of the brains of adult rats. These stem cells were previously thought to mature only into neurons or a type of glial cell called an astrocyte. The researchers found, however, that chronic stress also made stem cells in the hippocampus mature into another type of glial cell called an oligodendrocyte, which produces the myelin that sheaths nerve cells.

The fact that chronic stress also decreases the number of stem cells that mature into neurons could provide an explanation for how chronic stress also affects learning and memory, she said.

Kaufer is now conducting experiments to determine how stress in infancy affects the brain’s white matter, and whether chronic early-life stress decreases resilience later in life. She also is looking at the effects of therapies, ranging from exercise to antidepressant drugs, that reduce the impact of stress and stress hormones.

 

Read entire article here

 

 

 

 

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February 12, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traumatic Consequences Long After Fall of the Berlin Wall

English: Political Prisoners, sculpture by Sur...

English: Political Prisoners, sculpture by Suren Nazaryan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

PTSD – not just a war zone related condition.
The real eye opener was that 2/3 of the survivors were not suffering from this condition according to the parameters of the study.
Note to self: Research factors

 

 

 

From the 25 October 2012 article at ScienceDaily

 

One in three former political prisoners of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) still suffers from sleeping disorders, nightmares and irrational fear. Professor Andreas Maercker from the University of Zurich and PD Matthias Schützwohl from Dresden University of Technology reveal these post-traumatic stress disorders in a study — the first to examine the post-traumatic consequences in former political prisoners over a period of 15 years…

…To our surprise, post-traumatic stress disorder is still present in a third of the people studied,” says Professor Maercker, summing up the results. “While some have recovered compared to 15 years ago, in others the stress disorder has only manifested itself in recent years.” In all, such a delayed or recurrent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was apparent in 15 percent. We know from studies from other countries — mostly on prisoners of war or other victims of violence — that delayed or recurrent PTSD exists, albeit to a lesser extent. Maercker and Schützwohl’s study is the first to demonstrate this for former political prisoners. It appears in the journal Nervenarzt and additional analyses are to be published in the English-language journal Torture…

Decline in dependency on addictive substances

Other psychological disorders that former GDR prisoners suffered from decreased during the 15 years. Specific phobias such as claustrophobia were less common, for instance. The number of people addicted to alcohol and medication also fell. However, the number with acute depression quadrupled to 41 percent of those studied last year. At both time points, a more or less equal number suffered from anxiety disorders such as panic disorder (24 percent last year)….

 

 

October 26, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

War causes mental illness in soldiers

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems there is still debate (see related articles).

 

From the 19th September 2012 EurekAlert

One in every two cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers remains undiagnosed. This is the conclusion reached by a working group led by Hans-Ulrich Wittchen et al. They report their study in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109(35): 559), which is a special issue focusing on the prevalence of psychological stress in German army soldiers. In a second original article, results reported by Jens T Kowalski and colleagues show that more female soldiers contact the psychosocial support services provided by Germany’s armed forces than their male colleagues (Dtsch Arztbl Int 2012; 109 (35): 559).

Wittchen et al. draw attention to the fact that thus far no information has been available on how commonly soldiers have traumatic experiences during deployments to Afghanistan and develop PSTD. In their study, 85% of all soldiers deployed overseas reported at least one distressing event, but usually several such events. Overseas deployment is associated with twice or four times the risk of PTSD for soldiers. In international comparison, the prevalence of PTSD is notably lower in German soldiers, at 2.9%, than in soldiers from other countries who are deployed in the same regions. However, the estimated proportion of undiagnosed and untreated cases of PTSD is 45%.

Kowalski et al. explain that it is not only Afghanistan from where soldiers return in a traumatized state but also Kosovo. The number of Kosovo returnees with mental problems in their study increased significantly compared to the number of traumatized soldiers returning from Afghanistan. The study is based on hospital data of all German army psychiatric wards; these data evaluated the psychiatric morbidities between January 2010 through June 2011. The most common diagnoses were adjustment disorders, PSTD, and mild and moderate depressive episodes.

 

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http://www.aerzteblatt.de/pdf.asp?id=128487

http://www.aerzteblatt.de/pdf.asp?id=128488

Accompanying Editorial: http://www.aerzteblatt.de/pdf.asp?id=128486

 

 

September 20, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Nursing Trauma: How One Church is Going After Chicago’s Violence Epidemic

Gunshot wound victim makes it to the trauma ce...

Gunshot wound victim makes it to the trauma center at Valley Care Hospital (Photo credit: ffsetla)

This is one response to how to lower the high murder rate rate in Chicago (5,056 since 2001). The author believes that many victims of violence react with shock in much the same manner as soldiers with PTSD. These victims will most likely grow up angry with greater potential to use violence to solve problems unless they are worked with, much like returning soldiers from a war zone.

The blog post Nursing Trauma: How One Church is Going After Chicago’s Violence Epidemic may be found here.

Excerpts

The Real Problem: Trauma

I spent a summer in the ER of a Level 1 trauma center in Chicago. Gunshot victims would come in, and they couldn’t believe what had happened to them. It was traumatic in the truest sense – their bodies were broken and put into shock. But their mind and spirit were as well: it was a jarring experience all around for them. But not only for them. Mothers and aunties and cousins and baby mommas were going crazy too. A light bulb turned on: This situation is traumatic for them too! They need care as well.

And so the idea of “care” was expanding from physical to psycho-spiritual, and from patient to family. Everybody involved was a victim of trauma here.

I began to look into this idea of “trauma” and found that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the result of unfettered moments of shock that continue to reside in the body: the brain and body never return to “normal,” and will erupt in erratic behavior. Think of a geyser here. Hot springs are the result of spontaneous combustion of something that happened in a river far away and a long time ago. What if this is true with humans?

We already know it is. One study on inner-city kids in Chicago showed that children who were exposed to violence or witness a violent act were much more likely to demonstrate aggressive behavior within one year of exposure. PTSD also carries symptoms of depression, which contribute to feelings of meaninglessness in self and the world (thus devaluing another human life enough to take it). This is all very scientific and I want to get to the point:

Our children are being put into shock every single day.

They are experiencing violence as perpetrator, victim, and witness, and they are no less exposed to the trauma. The trauma of being poor….

One Real Solution

Chicago has been called a “warzone” – let’s play with that a moment. Maybe the best thing a small church can do to stop the violence is work with our children like we work with our returning soldiers. (We need to do this better as well). Vets need safe space to talk. They need to give voice to experiences and be able to create new ways of understanding themselves—it’s called moving from “soldier” to “human” again.

Our children need to understand themselves not as black or poor orat-risk but as HUMAN first. They need to develop meaning to confront the meaninglessness that surrounds them. This angry and dark world is traumatic for children, and they will grow up angry and dark unless we help them process what they have seen. Finding one’s own voice is critical to meaning-making. Some of them are not soldiers, but they are all in the war.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | health care, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mildly Stressful Situations Can Affect Our Perceptions In The Same Way As Life-Threatening Ones

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 14 June 2012 Medical News Today article

Financial loss can lead to irrational behavior. Now, research by Weizmann Institute scientists reveals that the effects of loss go even deeper: Loss can compromise our early perception and interfere with our grasp of the true situation. The findings, which recently appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, may also have implications for our understanding of the neurological mechanisms underlying post-traumatic stress disorder.

The experiment was conducted by Dr. Rony Paz and research student Offir Laufer of the Neurobiology Department. Subjects underwent a learning process based on classic conditioning and involving money. They were asked to listen to a series of tones composed of three different notes. After hearing one note, they were told they had earned a certain sum; after a second note, they were informed that they had lost some of their money; and a third note was followed by the message that their bankroll would remain the same. According to the findings, when a note was tied to gain, or at least to no loss, the subjects improved over time in a learned task – distinguishing that note from other, similar notes. But when they heard the “lose money” note, they actually got worse at telling one from the other.

Functional MRI (fMRI) scans of the brain areas involved in the learning process revealed an emotional aspect: The amygdala, which is tied to emotions and reward, was strongly involved. The researchers also noted activity in another area in the front of the brain, which functions to moderate the emotional response. Subjects who exhibited stronger activity in this area showed less of a drop in their abilities to distinguish between tones.

Paz: “The evolutionary origins of that blurring of our ability to discriminate are positive: If the best response to the growl of a lion is to run quickly, it would be counterproductive to distinguish between different pitches of growl. Any similar sound should make us flee without thinking. Unfortunately, that same blurring mechanism can be activated today in stress-inducing situations that are not life-threatening – like losing money – and this can harm us.”

That harm may even be quite serious: For instance, it may be involved in post-traumatic stress disorder. If sufferers are unable to distinguish between a stimulus that should cause a panic response and similar, but non-threatening, stimuli, they may experience strong emotional reactions in inappropriate situations. This perceptional blurring may even expand over time to encompass a larger range of stimuli. Paz intends to investigate this possibility in future research.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Kids of Deployed Soldiers May Face More Mental Health Woes

HealthDay news image

Study found they needed more doctor visits to handle issues from parent‘s absence

 

From a November 8, 2010 Health Day news item

MONDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) — Mental and behavioral problems cause children of U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones to need considerably more outpatient medical visits than those with non-deployed parents, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined the medical records of more than 640,000 military children between the ages of 3 and 8, and found that those separated from deployed parents sought treatment 11 percent more often for cases of mood, anxiety and adjustment disorders. Visits for conditions such as autism and attention-deficit disorder, whose causes are not linked to deployment, also increased.

The study, reported online Nov. 8 and in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics [article is free through this link], also revealed larger increases in mental and behavioral visits among older children, children with military fathers and children of married military parents.

“It’s statistically significant, but I also think it’s clinically significant,” said lead researcher Dr. Gregory Gorman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. “These are also probably the worst cases.”

Gorman said he was surprised to find that while these types of medical visits went up, the rates of visits for all other medical conditions dropped.

“I have no direct evidence, but we hypothesize that when a parent is deployed . . . and the other parent has to do all of the duties, they may want to handle other problems at home,” Gorman said. “These parents who remain at home need to multi-task even more.”…

…In Gorman’s study, the most frequent primary diagnosis during mental and behavioral health visits was attention-deficit disorder (ADD). Adjustment and autistic disorders came next, while farther down the list were mood and anxiety disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, developmental delays, post-traumatic stress disorder, bedwetting and separation anxiety.

SOURCES: Gregory Gorman, M.D., assistant professor, pediatrics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md.; Rick Olson, retired Army general, director, strategic communications, Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Proponency, Fort Lewis, Wash.; December 2010 Pediatrics

 

November 12, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Treating Anxiety Disorders

From the Fall 2010 issue of the NIH magazine NIH MedlinePlus, Treating Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are generally treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy such as “talk therapy,” or both. Treatment depends on the problem and the person’s preference. Before any treatment, a doctor must do a careful evaluation to see whether a person’s symptoms are from an anxiety disorder or a physical problem. The doctor must also check for coexisting conditions, such as depression or substance abuse. Sometimes, treatment for the anxiety disorder must wait until after treatment for the other conditions.

How Medications Can Help

Doctors may prescribe medication, along with talk therapy, to help relieve anxiety disorders. Some medicines may take a few weeks to work. Your family doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe:

  • Antidepressants. These medications take up to four to six weeks to begin relieving anxiety. The most widely prescribed antidepressants for anxiety are the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Commonly prescribed: Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa.
  • Anti-anxiety medicines (or “tranquilizers”). These medications produce feelings of calm and relaxation. Side effects may include feeling sleepy, foggy, and uncoordinated. The higher the dose, the greater the chance of side effects. Benzodiazepines are the most common class of anti-anxiety drugs.Commonly prescribed: Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan.
  • Beta blockers. These drugs block norepinephrine, the body’s “fight-or-flight” stress hormone. This helps control the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate, a trembling voice, sweating, dizziness, and shaky hands. Because beta blockers don’t affect the emotional symptoms of anxiety, such as worry, they’re most helpful for phobias, particularly social phobia and performance anxiety. Commonly prescribed: Tenormin and Inderal.

Click here for a list of related questions to ask your health care provider

Some related Web sites

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College( | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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