By Gene Bruno, MS, MHS – Dean of Academics, Huntington College of Health Sciences

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that may occur after someone has seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. PTSD can occur at any age, and can follow a natural disaster such as a flood or fire, or events such as assault, domestic abuse, prison stay, rape, terrorism and war. For example, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 may have caused PTSD in some people who were involved, in people who saw the disaster, and in people who lost relatives and friends. Likewise, veterans returning home from a war often have PTSD.

This article will examine various aspects of PTSD, including conventional medicine treatments and the use of nutraceuticals. The lifetime risk for PTSD in the United States is estimated to be up to 8%. It is estimated that about 6-30% or more of trauma survivors develop PTSD, with children and young people being among those at the high end of the range, and women have the twice the risk of PTSD as men.

There are three main categories of PTSD symptoms. These include: 1) re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks and nightmares; 2) emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people and activities that are reminders of the trauma; and 3) and increased arousal including difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and becoming easily irritated and angered. People with PTSD might also feel guilt about the event, including survivor guilt. Typical of anxiety, stress, and tension, additional symptoms may include agitation or excitability, dizziness, fainting, feeling your heart beat in your chest, and headache. Although many of these symptoms of PTSD may be an appropriate initial response to a traumatic event, they are considered part of a disorder when they persist beyond three months. Psychological, genetic, physical, and social factors are involved in PTSD, resulting in changes to the body’s response to stress. It affects the stress hormones and neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry information between the nerves). PTSD may also be associated with shrinkage in the brain associated with memory and learning, possibly due to the continued release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Psychotherapy with a mental health professional is commonly used to help PTSD. This can occur one on-one or in a group. Types of psychotherapy can help people with PTSD include exposure therapy (helps reduce symptoms by encouraging people to remember the traumatic event and express your feelings about it), cognitive restructuring (helps people make sense of the bad memories), and stress inoculation training (tries to reduce PTSD symptoms by teaching a person how to reduce anxiety). Support from family and friends can be an important part of therapy. Nutraceuticals which have application for PTSD include those which promote healthy serotonin levels (St. John’s Wort and L-tryptophan), as well as those that reduce anxiety and promote relaxation (GABA and L-theanine).

Both norepinephrine and dopamine are key neurotransmitters participating in the maintenance of mental alertness and acuity while promoting a Positive Mental Attitude. These two neurotransmitters are produced in the body from amino acid building blocks, primarily L-Tyrosine, and one of its precursors, DL-Phenylalanine. Viva Vitamins™ has combined these amino acids with L-glutamine and GABA to help with proper brain function and mental activity in the product called PMA (Positive Mental Attitude).

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