Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Causes: PTSD is common among people who have been in war or people who have experienced catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina. However, Dr. Gordon explains that events such as being abused as a child or losing a loved one in a violent way, without much emotional support afterward, can also cause PTSD.
Symptoms: There are several symptoms of PTSD that Dr. Gordon says can occur after experiencing overwhelming stress that makes coping difficult. These symptoms include: agitation, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, emotional numbness, flashbacks or nightmares of the traumatic event you experienced, and avoiding reminders of the event.
Healing: Biologically, Dr. Gordon says people with PTSD have a continual output of stress hormones in their brain. Those hormones can kill off brain cells related to memory and emotion. According to Dr. Gordon, because brain functions are affected by PTSD, sufferers often cannot verbally express memories or flashbacks of the traumatic event to others. Through mind-body medicine, Dr. Gordon teaches people with PTSD how to relax and helps them discover a "safe place" where they can quiet their nervous system. Through techniques that include relaxation and using imagination and physical movements, Dr. Gordon helps sufferers develop tools they can use to deal with the disorder on a daily basis. "This is not a one-day-a-week thing," Dr. Gordon says. "The symptoms of PTSD may come at any time and people need to know how to deal with it themselves on a daily basis."
Taking an integrated approach that uses both conventional and mind-body medicine when treating illnesses is something Dr. Gordon says should be a part of medical training in the United States. From comprehensive cancer care to stress management and PTSD, Dr. Gordon recommends doctors and patients explore all options during medical treatment.