PTSD and Fireworks

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Written by: Rebecca McCoy

Rebecca McCoy lives in Florida with her husband who has military related PTSD, two children, and extended family. She writes about her experiences as a supportive spouse and shares her unique perspective and wants to help others who are living with PTSD. She shares her story at www.aspousesstoryptsd.com. and on her Facebook page: A Spouses Story PTSD.

Has anyone noticed that many with #PTSD are having additional symptoms or increased symptoms right now? Now, do you know why?

For those of you in the United States… What’s coming? Ah… the 4th of July! (There are certain anniversaries or such going on in other countries as well) Which means…

Fireworks…Crowds…Celebrations…Expectations! Oh fireworks!

Fireworks.

Many ask, “Why fireworks?”. Because they might resemble what someone, especially military/war related OR a natural disaster, went through, their trauma, which lead to PTSD.

Many that do understand believe it’s because of the sound they produce, which is very true however not the full truth to them. What about the vibration they give off, vibrations from fireworks can also effect one. Then you have the light produced from them, it can be another PTSD trigger as well.

So what if the one with PTSD might be able to manage through the lights, vibrations, sound but you can’t figure out why fireworks are still a trigger to their PTSD. But are you still missing something? What about the smell? Ah… you may not have thought about that one, the smell. Many that have experienced military trauma relate the smell of fireworks to combat.

In a situation where natural disaster was at hand, it may be more of the sound, lights, and vibration over the smell sense that trigger a person.

You have to keep in mind ALL of the body’s senses when it comes to PTSD. PTSD can react to or be triggered by anything that can be sensed that reminds them of what happened to them and was going on around them at the time of their trauma.

At times, those that are triggered by fireworks can find ways to cope through them, others may have a more difficult time doing so. It all depends on the person, their level of coping at that time, as well as if there is time to prepare for a possible trigger.

So what can you do?

* Some will face what is going on. Actually sit, watch, and focus on fireworks to try to help keep themselves grounded to present time and place.

* Some will stay inside to avoid the smells fireworks produce. Or to avoid the light they produce, also by keeping the curtains shut to block the light.

* The vibrations are a slight bit more tricky. There’s no avoiding those. If vibrations are a trigger you have to focus to keep yourself grounded. Prepare yourself to what you know is actually taking place or going to take place. Helicopters are another thing that is a huge trigger to many due to vibrations, which seem to fly more during the holiday weekend.

* If the sound is a trigger, sometimes playing music or something you like such as watching a movie can help drown them out. Ear buds or headphones/headsets are wonderful in these cases.

* Using coping techniques/skills can help. To name a few common ones… Breathing exercises, meditation (which there are many different types of meditation, mindfulness is one we use), grounding techniques including focusing on someone or something.

* Talk to someone through these times. Having someone to talk to and focus on can help, as well as help keep you grounded.

Whatever works for you or try different things until you find what’s best for you in each situation, just make sure you do something. Flashbacks and triggers are no joke and sure not a fun experience so do or try things that can help get you through these times.

PTSD does start showing more symptoms when one is getting closer to days like the 4th of July. Recognize that there is a cause for additional symptoms and they are not something that are just coming out of the blue. With PTSD, there is always a “something” to cause the flashbacks or triggers. When you learn to recognize the causes or reasons, it makes it a little easier to handle and learn to cope best as possible when those things come.

To those without PTSD…

Please take into consideration and understand that if one with PTSD cannot manage to join in holiday activities, it’s not that they don’t want to, it’s due to what is going on now that may be triggering their symptoms. They may be overwhelmed, feel pressured, experiencing higher anxiety and stress levels, and a good chance due to the fear of the unknown which is very common with PTSD. It will all depend on a person’s coping level/ability to what they can manage and what they cannot at this point, as well as any triggers which may occur.

So let those with PTSD set their own pace and be the one to push themselves if they are in a position they feel they can. It is perfectly okay to invite them and include them in holiday activities, it actually will make them feel good, but at the same time do not pressure them to do so.

Many may retreat away from others during this time, please understand that this should not be taken personally, when this happens normally it’s due to them needing space to cope and manage their symptoms, as well as not wanting others to see what they go through.

I hope everyone has a peaceful and relaxing holiday, please stay safe out there!

~Bec

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New Study Suggests that Blood Test Can Detect PTSD

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According to a recent Dutch study involving military personnel deployed to Afghanistan, there is evidence to suggest that blood-based miRNAs (Micro RiboNucleic Acids) may serve as “candidate biomarkers for symptoms of PTSD.”

Image from Biochemistry for Medics

A research group from the Netherlands collected blood samples Dutch soldiers before, as well as 6 months after deployment.

Author of the study, Dr. Laurence de Nijs (Maastricht University), states the following:

“We discovered that these small molecules, called miRNAs, are present in different amount in the blood of persons suffering from PTSD compared to trauma-exposed and control subjects without PTSD.

“We identified over 900 different types of these small molecules. 40 of them were regulated differently in people who developed PTSD, whereas there were differences in 27 of the miRNAs in trauma-exposed individuals who did not develop PTSD.

“Interestingly, previous studies have found circulating miRNA levels to be not only correlated with different types of cancer, but also with certain psychiatric disorders including major depressive disorders. These preliminary results of our pilot study suggest that miRNAs might indeed be candidates as predictive blood markers (biomarker) to distinguish between persons at high and low risk of developing PTSD. However, several steps need to be performed before such results can really have an impact on the larger field and in clinical practice. In addition to working towards biomarkers, the results may also provide novel information about the biological mechanisms underlying the development of PTSD”.

While more studies are required to confirm the results of this study, it does suggest that blood-testing could help identify risk factors for susceptibility to PTSD for troops scheduled for deployment.

It is difficult to generalize from such a limited test sample but clearly, evidence based markers seem to be a far better way to test the incidence of PTSD and brain trauma than the simplistic PTSD screening questionnaires currently employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”).

There continues to be much promising research into preventing and curing PTSD and TBI, but sadly the VA continues to insist on failed therapy programs while sponsoring research studies than focus on helping Veterans cope with the symptoms of brain trauma rather that provide meaningful solutions.  The cannabis and ecstasy studies suggest that the VA feels far more comfortable dispensing prescription drugs rather than provide Veterans with a meaningful path to full recovery.

While thousands of Veterans continue to suffer from combat-related brain trauma, the VA has done precious little to help these Veterans and their families cope with this debilitating problem.  While the VA insists that they are doing everything possible to help Veterans with PTSD and TBI, the story of Eric Bivins and countless other brave warriors paints a far different picture of what Veterans can really expect at the VA.

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Drs. Paul Harch and David Cifu Spar over Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

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Well over a year ago, Dr. Paul Harch, one of the leading experts in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (“HBOT”) published an authoritative report entitled “Hyperbaric oxygen in chronic traumatic brain injury:  oxygen, pressure and gene therapy” for the U.S. National Library of Medicine (Medical Gas Research).

In this report (a lengthy extract is printed below), Dr. Harch argues persuasively over the many benefits of using HBOT in treating brain injury:

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment for wounds in any location and of any duration that has been misunderstood for 353 years. Since 2008 it has been applied to the persistent post-concussion syndrome of mild traumatic brain injury by civilian and later military researchers with apparent conflicting results. The civilian studies are positive and the military-funded studies are a mixture of misinterpreted positive data, indeterminate data, and negative data. This has confused the medical, academic, and lay communities. The source of the confusion is a fundamental misunderstanding of the definition, principles, and mechanisms of action of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This article argues that the traditional definition of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is arbitrary. The article establishes a scientific definition of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a wound-healing therapy of combined increased atmospheric pressure and pressure of oxygen over ambient atmospheric pressure and pressure of oxygen whose main mechanisms of action are gene-mediated. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy exerts its wound-healing effects by expression and suppression of thousands of genes. The dominant gene actions are upregulation of trophic and anti-inflammatory genes and down-regulation of pro-inflammatory and apoptotic genes. The combination of genes affected depends on the different combinations of total pressure and pressure of oxygen. Understanding that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a pressure and oxygen dose-dependent gene therapy allows for reconciliation of the conflicting TBI study results as outcomes of different doses of pressure and oxygen.

Not surprisingly, Dr. David Cifu, Senior TBI Specialist in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Health Administration, gave the standard stock answer from the spin doctors at the VA that:

There is no reason to believe that an intervention like HBOT that purports to decrease inflammation would have any meaningful effect on the persistence of symptoms after concussion. Three well-controlled, independent studies (funded by the Department of Defense and published in a range of peer reviewed journals) involving more than 200 active duty servicemen subjects have demonstrated no durable or clinically meaningful effects of HBOT on the persistent (>3 months) symptoms of individuals who have sustained one or more concussions. Despite these scientifically rigorous studies, the clinicians and lobbyists who make their livings using HBOT for a wide range of neurologic disorders (without scientific support) have continued to advocate the use of HBOT for concussion.

To Dr. David Cifu’s stock VA response, Dr. Harch responded as follows:

The charge is inconsistent with nearly three decades of basic science and clinical research and more consistent with the conflict of interest of VA researchers.  A final point: in no publication has the claim regarding effectiveness of HBOT in mTBI PPCS been predicated on an exclusive or even dominant anti-inflammatory effect of HBOT. Rather, the argument is based on the known micro-wounding of brain white matter in mTBI, and the known gene-modulatory, trophic wound-healing effects of HBOT in chronic wounding.  The preponderance of literature in HBOT-treated chronic wound conditions, is contrary to Dr. Cifu’s statement of HBOT as a “useless technology.”

As a layman, Dr. Harch’s detailed rebuttal (see FULL RESPONSE HERE) completely destroys Dr. Cifu’s “non-responsive” comment to the scientific points raised in Dr. Harch’s report.  In my view, it goes beyond the traditional “professional respect” shown by peers:  Dr. Harch was pissed off and, in my opinion, had every right to be.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Cifu has not responded to the irrefutable arguments presented by Dr. Harch.

The discussion of HBOT is not a subject of mild academic interest.  Specifically,  Veterans are being deprived of hyperbaric oxygen therapy because Dr. David Cifu and his cronies at the VA are misrepresenting the overwhelming evidence that suggests that HBOT restores brain function.

Why?  Indeed, that is the $64 question.

It is difficult to forecast how this academic drama will play out.  Nevertheless, I suspect that David Ciful will eventually be viewed by Veterans as performing a similar role within the VA as Alvin Young, aka “Dr. Orange.”

I hope and pray this is not the case.  On behalf of tens of thousands of Veterans who are denied HBOT treatment for PTSD and TBI by the clumsy and sloppy claims of Dr. Cifu and others within the VA, please “do the right thing” and lend your support to HBOT as a recommended VA therapy for treating brain injury.

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