“After my final tour of duty in the military, I came home in 1993 feeling like my whole life had changed and that my attitude to my friends and life in general had changed. I had flashbacks, problems sleeping, was absolutely terrified of bangs and fireworks, and felt guilty and ashamed that I was the only one who seemed to be affected. My self-confidence had gone, I struggled with mood swings and had difficulty socialising” (Personal Testimonies From…). This is just one example of what people go through from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. An estimated 5% of Americans have PTSD at any given time. Almost 13 million people, or in other words, 1 out of every 13 people, will get diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime, and that is just the beginning (Post-Traumatic Stress…). Treating PTSD can be a lengthy and strenuous journey within itself.
When choosing between a modern medical treatment or a natural alternative, it is critical to weigh out the costs and benefits from each. For example, modern medical treatments have a big risk of addiction to prescribed medications. Whereas alternative treatments, such as meditation, yoga, and acupuncture, have no risk of addiction because there is nothing to get addicted to.
Choosing a treatment route can be a confusing and difficult decision to make. The most common treatment route, that is usually pushed for by doctors, may not be the best option. When choosing a plan, it is very important to learn about all the options and really consider the advantages and disadvantages. Clinical treatments raise the risk of possible medication addiction, medication abuse, inadequate therapy, the possibility of the medications not working, along with all the symptoms that come with the medications prescribed. Medications prescribed for PTSD can be easy to develop an dependence to.
These drugs can “increase pleasure, decrease anxiety, and provide a distraction from difficult emotions” (The Link Between…). Therefore, “when someone feels stressed, levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are lowered, and adrenaline is increased. GABA is a kind of natural tranquilizer produced by the brain that can also be stimulated by drugs that suppress the central nervous system, like opioids, marijuana, alcohol, and benzodiazepines… with repeated drug use, it will become harder for the brain to keep regulating amounts of neurotransmitters and GABA normally” (The Link Between…). Generally these patients are prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, antidepressant, or a mood stabilizer. The most addictive being anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax or Valium. These drugs have many other serious symptoms, other than being addictive. These symptoms include: drowsiness, nausea, insomnia, blurred vision, anxiety, dizziness, agitation, and headaches (Tull). Referencing back to the first story:
I had my first breakdown in 1995, which resulted in my general practitioner prescribing Seroxat (paroxetine), that made me act in a frenzied and uncontrollable way when I had either forgotten to take it or tried to come off it. I was not offered any counselling or a referral to a psychiatrist and no investigations were conducted to find the cause of my problems. I had a second major breakdown in 1999. I could no longer cope with my job because I couldn’t deal with any confrontational issues, and was desperate to commit suicide. My life consisted of these spiraling periods of self-doubt, self-hate and worthlessness. I had no idea what was wrong, only that I felt I was going mad. I had many other problems, including anxiety, hyperventilating, sweating and social phobia, to name just a few. There were no clinics I could go to and no support groups.
All I wanted to do was talk to someone and tell them how I felt and what I was going through, and how I could not cope. I finally went to my general practitioner after I admitted to my wife that I wanted to kill myself (Personal Testimonies From…).
This shows just how real the effects of medications to help treat PTSD are, along with how bad doctor or therapy visits can go. Therapy can be a great asset in the treatment of PTSD, but also run the risk of wasting time with inadequate therapy sessions. For instance, continuing into this man’s story:
I went to a critical incident debriefing for 10 sessions, who eventually diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in 1999. I cried for hours because for the first time in 6 years someone had told me I was ill. When PTSD was explained to me, I fitted every criterion. I knew then that I was not going mad, that I was not the only one who felt this way, and that my problems were normal responses to abnormal occurrences. I was prescribed more drugs that were steadily increased until I reached the maximum limit, but they turned me into a zombie. Again no psychological intervention was offered.
When I was first referred to a community mental health team in 1999, the community psychiatric nurse (CPN) would stare at the ceiling and fidget while I tried to explain to him what happened and how I felt. I didn’t feel that I could build up any trust with him and he admitted that he did not have the skills or understanding to help me. On one occasion I explained that I had had a problem with Seroxat (an antidepressant) and as a result was scared to go back to the general practitioner who had prescribed it. It seemed that the CPN did not at first believe me when I said that I found Seroxat to be addictive because he had to ask his colleague to confirm what I had told him. Imagine how I felt when he said this, implying that he did not believe a thing I said? I refused to go back after that and was sent a letter saying that because I had not attended my last appointment they considered me fully recovered and were not going to send me any more appointments (Personal Testimonies From…).
When people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder don’t receive proper treatment, they can begin to affect the lives of the people around them. As written by the National Center for PTSD, “traumatic experiences that happen to one member of a family can affect everyone else in the family. Trauma symptoms can make individuals hard to get along with or cause them to withdraw from the rest of the family. When trauma reactions are severe and go on for awhile without treatment, they can cause major problems in a family. Family members coping with a loved one with PTSD may find themselves reacting in many ways.” For instance, someone who has PTSD can begin to distance themselves from their loved ones, creating feelings of sadness and even anger from loved ones. As well as bringing “a detrimental cost to society with high financial and social consequences from the significantly elevated rates of hospitalization, suicide attempts and alcohol abuse” (Davidson JR). This disorder can also potentially lower societies quality of living, just by not being treated or not being treated correctly.
By definition ‘Integrative Medicine’ is “healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies” (What is IM?). Treating anything integratively is not as well known or as widely accepted as treating through modern medicine, just due to the fact they are far more natural. Just a few alternate treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, hypnosis, and improving endocrine and gut health. These techniques are not only non addictive, but provide a safe and healthy alternative for improving PTSD symptoms.
Meditation, acupuncture, massage, and yoga provide a calming state of mind that helps with emotional stability and decreases anxiety in patients (How to Treat..). Treating gut health and the endocrine system also help with balancing mood, by allowing neurotransmitters to be absorbed and used properly. Hypnosis is even more peculiar than all the other alternative routes. Many people don’t even believe that hypnosis is real, let alone can help in the treatment with something as serious as PTSD, but it certainly can. While under hypnosis, the hypnotherapy cannot erase the traumatic event from the patient’s memory, but it can directly address the event along with the event’s effects. The memories stored in their subconscious mind can potentially be released and then transformed.
Yes, medications are probably more likely to being treating the symptoms faster. But is it worth it to risk becoming addicted to those medications? What about having to deal with all the symptoms those medications come with? What about therapy? Sure it can be a great option, but there’s always the possibility of having therapy sessions such as the following:
..I saw this therapist for months, but after making no progress I saw the other therapist who had previously been interested. When her interventions also failed, she wrote in my notes ‘Patient is not responding, or is unwilling to respond to treatment’! I also felt that the General
Practitioners were also clearly out of their depth. They were not willing in many cases to refer on to others as they believed that no treatment should be offered for PTSD for at least 3 months as most people would get better with no intervention. However, I felt that I desperately needed help in the days following the disaster. I feel I irritated all the professionals that I contacted because I openly admitted the problem, cried for help, admitted that I was sleepless and drinking too much. But I had no help of any kind from them… (Personal Testimonies From…).
At times when patients needed it most, modern medicine wasn’t there for them, and when alternative medicine is, that’s where the real healing comes into play. Treating any disease, disorder, or condition has to initially start with the patient itself wanting it, and no medicine can control that.
When I needed help the most, I was let down. I was taken off the psychiatrist’s books but was not told that I was no longer going to be getting any appointments. When I phoned 4 weeks later needing to see a psychiatrist I was told that I had to be re-referred via my General Practitioner. I went to him and was re-referred only to a psychiatric nurse, who had clearly not read my notes. I was then informed that this was an initial appointment and that because his books were full they could not see me for another 2 to 3 months, I never got an appointment. At that moment I lost all hope in the National Health Service.
I reduced my own medication and using some of my war pension I made a website about PTSD which explained about the different ways people can help themselves with techniques I had been taught and learnt myself. It revived very upsetting memories but my whole motive was to provide information and support to fellow PTSD sufferers so that they did not have to go through the hell that I had to endure. I thought that if I could prevent just one person from committing suicide, then it was all worth while. My website is now the number one PTSD self-help/information (non-medical) website in the world. And after another year of being unemployable, I slowly managed to begin a new, ‘drug free’, life, and with the support of my family I started a new job (Personal Testimonies From…).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t just “combat stress” or “battle fatigue”, it can happen to anyone, at anytime. Being diagnosed is just the start, treating PTSD is a rough journey in itself. Going through intense flashbacks, emotional numbness, difficulty sleeping, and high stress are just a few examples. When choosing how to treat PTSD, it is important to decide if the benefits of alternative medicine outway the risks of modern medicine. Modern medicine’s biggest downfall is the risk of addiction to medications. Whereas alternative medicine has no risk of addiction whatsoever and no unpleasant side effects. 1 out of every 13 people are diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. So make sure that one is treated the right way, integratively.