The Warrior Brain
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany during the First World War. Later, in 1938, we declared November 11th a national holiday for veterans.
Acts of bravery are not all glory, they come with sacrifice. Witnessing and/or experiencing a traumatic life event can have lasting effects; flashbacks, distressing dreams, and involuntary memory relapses are just some of the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, 2013), a disorder that effects more individuals than we come to realize. This disorder is characterized by a heightened sensitivity to potential threats, including those related and/or not related to the event. The nervous system of individuals who have been affected by trauma responds differently than those who have not. Responses such as immobilization, physical and/or verbal aggression, reckless or self-destructive behavior are commonly seen. PTSD victims may also have issues with sleep, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, due to their dream patterns.
PTSD is not a rarity. In fact, 6 out of every 10 people go through a least one traumatic event throughout their lifetime (PTSD, 2013). These events may include but are not limited to sexual assault, child abuse, physical assault, and exposure to war as a combatant or a civilian. For military personal, being a perpetrator, witnessing atrocities, or killing the enemy may be some of the environmental peritraumatic factors that can effect the severity of the PTSD they experience (DSM-V, 2014).
The challenge with this severe stress disorder is to teach the brain to turn off mental triggers (i.e. visual reminders, places, sounds, people, past flashbacks). In a recent neurofeedback study involving veterans with PTSD, many veterans showed an elimination of one or more of their symptoms, abnormal behaviors, and/or had a significant decrease in their blood stress hormone levels following treatment (Veterans Day, 2009). Another study (PTSD, 2013) showed an 86 percent improvement after only 10 neurofeedback sessions due to the brain being trained to produce healthier patterns, thus significantly reducing symptoms without the use of medication.
As we just celebrated Veteran’s Day, it is time for us all to be appreciative of the men and women who put their lives on the line, and to be aware of those whom suffer from the effects of this disorder. By raising awareness and educating others about PTSD, we can serve those who are in need with different methods of healing. It is never too late to correct and reteach the brain.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.)
PTSD | Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (2013). Retrieved November 10, 2015, from http://ptsd-treatment.info
Veterans Day. (2009). Retrieved November 10, 2015, from http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/history-of-veterans-day