Trauma & PTSD

Treatment at Cottonwood Tucson

About Trauma & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Trauma occurs when a life event, usually one that threatens or causes great physical or emotional harm, overwhelms the brain’s inbuilt chemical and physiological defenses to stress. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that sometimes develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. It’s normal to be afraid when you’re in danger, but if you feel upset, anxious and fearful weeks or even months later, you might be suffering from PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • frequent nightmares 
  • recurrent flashbacks or intrusive thoughts related to the traumatic event
  • an exaggerated startle response 
  • feelings of anger, guilt, loneliness and sadness 
  • abiding tension and sleeplessness

The Neuroscience of PTSD

Research has shown an association between PTSD and functional changes in the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in the formation of emotional memories, especially fear-related memories. Over time, trauma or even chronic stress can also decrease the number of neuronal connections in the brain.

Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

At Cottonwood, we understand the neuroscience of PTSD, and treat the disorder in an environment of safety and support. In a comprehensive PTSD treatment plan, group therapy is helpful in reducing isolation and social stigma related to the disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can also help to reprogram brain circuitry so that patients can recall traumatic events with less emotional resonance.

And, as with other anxiety disorders, proper diet and regular exercise can have a powerful effect on reducing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder by influencing the biological component of post-traumatic stress. Our behavioral health nutritionists and exercise therapists can help PTSD patients develop diet and exercise programs that can even facilitate neurogenesis – the growth of new brain tissue that can strengthen neuronal circuitry – thereby reducing symptoms and improving overall emotional health.

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