Your Adrenals and PTSD: The Mechanism
Have you ever had an panic attack brought on by a certain sight, smell, sound, or feeling? I had a sweet patient of mine tell me of her PTSD episode that occurred from hearing a specific sound at a specific time of day. It all reminded her of a traumatic event from years ago with the same sounds at the same time.
When adrenal stress overload or “fight or flight” symptoms occur from a trigger, this can indicate that the original trauma was never processed.
It’s referred to as neurological tagging or a feedback loop.
The original trauma sets itself deep inside your neurology- Brain, nerves, spinal cord, and muscles. These parts of the body all contain a memory, within the cells, of the event; location, time, temperature, sounds, smell, etc. The subconscious does not forget any event, and since it is directly connected to your body parts, the body holds on to the memory.
When a deep, major event happens in your life, it triggers the sympathetic nervous system. Remember, the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for creating high energy, the fight or flight response. Almost all the nerve endings of the sympathetic nervous system is connected to the outer shell of the adrenal gland’s called the medulla. The deeper the trigger, the greater adrenal response.
If an event creates such a huge adrenal/sympathetic response, it lays down that memory firmly within your neurology. It trains your whole body on how to respond to that type of trauma in the future. This is accomplished by creating a major fight or flight/sympathetic reaction to anything resembling the original event. This is a form of PTSD-TAGGING an old event and responding chemically as if it is happening now...this is the feedback loop.
The one simple thing I suggest to my patients is breathing. Breathing deeply within and through the stomach, while thinking of the old trauma. You and I can breathe consciously and unconsciously, it is one of the only actions we can control in this manner. This creates connection between conscious, subconscious, and unconscious.
Deep belly breathing activates the autonomic and voluntary nervous system to pay attention to the old memory. Awareness of the old memory by both parts of the nervous system helps process the trauma. Breathe deep and process PTSD.
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