How the Brain Changes in Response to PTSD

PTSD is an ongoing problem, not only with survivors of child sexual abuse, rape, violent crime and other traumas, but also with our veterans. Neuroscientists are working to understand how the brain responds to trauma, so that it can be better treated and overcome. The research they being done is on the connection between PTSD symptoms and the structure and function of the brain.

Scientists tell us that changes to the amygdala are directly tied to PTSD. This is the limbic system, or the emotional brain (hippocampus and amygdala), which plays a major role in how we experience certain emotions including  fear and anger, memories as well as instinct.

The hippocampus is specifically responsible for our ability to store and retrieve memories. Because of this, the hippocampus has been identified as a brain structure that is important to understanding the development of PTSD and other anxiety disorders.

Harvard University reports:

Approximately 8% of the U.S. population will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. The disorder can lead to panic attacks, substance abuse, depression, suicide and a host of other serious medical complications, including, most notably, cardiovascular disorders.

These findings are astonishing. To put this number in perspective, that’s more than 24 million PTSD sufferers in the US alone.

Harvard University also reports that more than 200,000 U.S. military veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD. Veterans with PTSD have less volume in the amygdala of the brain that is critical in fear and anxiety responses.

The connection between PTSD and the brain is clear and is important for treatment. The New York Times quotes Matthew Friedman, executive director of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disordert

”Understanding the brain basis of post-traumatic stress an help us design a medication that reverses these changes,”….

If you are suffering from PTSD or another mental illness, seek help. There are quality treatments available that will help you to live a fuller, more meaningful life.


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