PTSD Awareness Month: Seeking help before it’s too late

The recent suicides of some well known names have raised awareness to those who suffer from depression, and even-more-so to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Spectrum Health's nationally recognized menopause specialist Dr. Diana Bitner, discusses what PTSD is and how people can seek help before tragedy strikes, just in time for PTSD Month.

PTSD  is when feelings of flight or fight are triggered even when the event is in the past. Flight or fight reactions such as avoidance, hiding, heart racing, or not thinking straight can be life saving, but not when they happen even when we are not in danger. The result of PTSD can be:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Angry outbursts
  • Feeling tense all the time
  • Negative thoughts
  • Flashbacks
  • Feelings which do not apply to current situations such as guilt or shame
  • No interest in doing fun things
  • Substance abuse with cigarettes, alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs
  • Higher risk obesity, diabetes, heart disease.

These feelings of PTSD can be managed, but might resurface with certain events or life phases such as perimenopause.

The relationship between hormones and brain chemicals is real. Without the right balance of brain chemicals, it is hard to focus, to concentrate, to problem solve, to sleep, or to get out of a flight or fight reaction.

Dr. Bitner says to think of it as a  balance sheet; the brain makes and spends neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Brain chemicals are made when we sleep, and some people make more that others. We spend brain chemicals on life events, and some events cost more than others such as dealing with past abuse vs. deciding what to have for lunch.

For women, when hormones are low such as right before a period, after having a baby, or in menopause, the brain goes through the brain chemicals faster. If there aren't enough chemicals in the brain, that results in the body not being able to function well, leading to PTSD symptoms.

Medications and other treatments can help restore a person's chemical balance and help reduce PTSD symptoms like:

  • Medications for mood changes like SSRI
  • Careful use of medicine for anxiety attacks
  • Practice with coping with panic attacks; changing thinking, physical activity, etc.
  • Making sleep a priority
  • Regular exercise
  • CBT; talk therapy
  • Group support therapy

Dr. Bitner's office is located at 3800 Lake Michigan Drive Northwest, Suite A. To schedule an appointment with her, call (616)-267-8225.

All information was provided by Dr. Diana Bitner, her blog. Read more.

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