2014-03-07 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

The Hidden Faces Of PTSD
By Dr. Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH


DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES The hidden faces of PTSD are everywhere and they are hidden in plain sight. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) implies that the cause of your symptoms was a traumatic stress that occurred, one that happened to you or one that you witnessed. Traumatic stress is usually relegated to victims of war, sexual abuse and accidents. All of these do apply and may or may not produce the ongoing symptoms of PTSD.

Failure to recognize the symptoms and implement appropriate non-conventional, integrative interventions has led to rampant anxiety/depression disorders, chronic pain syndromes, overdose of prescription drugs (especially in women), spiraling costs for chronic disease management and disabilities and caregiver burnout.

The Hidden Faces of PTSD was the subject of a presentation I gave at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium on February 22nd. Common symptoms of PTSD that may go largely untreated include anxiety, insomnia, stomach pain, IBS, headaches, confusion, loss of concentration or focus, irritability, back/muscle/joint pain, fatigue, apathy, bed wetting in children, temper tantrums/rages, mood fluctuation and more.

The causes that are stress related are traumatic ones that are not usually associated with PTSD like receiving a diagnosis of a life threatening condition (cancer), being involved in or witnessing an accident. One study found that 50 percent of patients who experienced chronic pain following a motor vehicle accident developed PTSD. It doesn't have to be a motor vehicle accident. I have seen PTSD symptoms in patients that persist from the events of 9/11, the Nov. 12th plane crash and recently Hurricane Sandy.

PTSD is seen commonly in caregivers. We call it compassion fatigue. Who among us is not a caregiver of sorts? The range varies but we have people who care for their families, their elder parents, their spouse, their disabled or dysfunctional children and hold down a job.

Repeated stress affects our ability to function effectively. Pain is the language our body speaks. Pain triggers a cognitive distortion, emotional exaggerated thinking is experienced. Rumination, worrying increases inflammation in tissues which causes persistent muscle pain, anxiety, phobias, organ/thyroid/ adrenal dysfunction, sleep disturbances and inability to participate wholly in your life relationships or occupation.

I have treated PTSD effectively with a combination of CAM disciplines for 30 years. Recent studies have shown increased effectiveness using Positive Emotion Psychology and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). My presentation was a collaborative one with Dr. Lorraine Gahles-Kildow, a licensed psychologist who specializes in CBT and Positive Emotions. An experiential component at the conclusion of our talk was so powerful that I intend to offer it as a workshop here in Rockaway. Please email me for info or to present it at your school, office, organization.

Remember that the squeaky wheel gets the oil! If you are suffering from any chronic, recurring symptoms that appear to have no cause, then consider the Hidden Faces of PTSD. Allow me to listen to your story, and I will help you interpret the language your suffering is speaking. There is always a solution. It's hidden in plain sight!

May The Blessings Be!

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