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What happens to your brain with PTSD, and a promising technique to fix it

brainMany, many people involved with sociopaths end up with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts
  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression or worry
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
  • Having trouble remembering the dangerous event
  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having angry outbursts
  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Distorted feelings like guilt of shame

How do you get PTSD?

Your brain is designed to respond quickly to danger. When your senses perceive danger, part of the brain called the amygdala instigates a whole-body response by releasing powerful stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, and you go into fight-flight-or-freeze mode. You are ready to do whatever you must to survive.

After the danger has passed, your brain and body are supposed to return to normal. With PTSD, however, that doesn’t happen. You stay in fight-flight-or-freeze mode, even though you no longer face a life-threatening danger.

Complex PTSD

PTSD is generally associated with a horrifying incident, such as natural disaster, terrible car accident or war combat.

But there’s another type of PTSD, called complex PTSD, which comes from chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years, according to the National Center for PTSD.

This is the type of PTSD that many people involved with sociopaths experience. The sociopath’s repeated rages, emotional assault and, in some cases, domestic violence, eventually lead to the PTSD reactions listed above.

Body Keeps the Score

I’m reading a book called The Body Keeps the Score – Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. In it, he explains:

As long as the trauma is not resolved, the stress hormones that the body secretes to protect itself keep circulating, and the defensive movements and emotional responses keep getting replayed.

When people have PTSD flashbacks, van der Kolk says, the flashbacks are often worse than the actual experience. Why? Because flashbacks can occur at any time, and the sufferers never know how long they will last. He continues:

If elements of the trauma are replayed again and again, the accompanying stress hormones engrave those memories ever more deeply in the mind. Ordinary, day-to-day events become less and less compelling. Not being able to take in what is going on around them makes it impossible to feel fully alive. It becomes harder to feel the joys and aggravations of ordinary life, harder to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Not being fully alive in the present keeps them firmly imprisoned in the past.

The Body Keeps the Score is a fabulous book, and I’m going to write more about it soon. But today I want to focus on a technique that has helped many, many people fully recover from PTSD.

EFT Tapping

With EFT tapping, you bring to mind a traumatic memory while you tap with your fingers on specific acupressure points on your face and upper body. PTSD goes away. Really.

It sounds silly and looks sillier. But quite a few Lovefraud readers have told me that they’ve used the technique and it helped them feel better.

I didn’t get PTSD because of my experience with a sociopath, so I can’t personally verify that it works for that condition. But I have used tapping to overcome stress and anxiety — conditions EFT is known to treat. And yes, my internal tension went away.

The good news with this technique is that you can learn it yourself by watching online videos and do it on yourself, for free. If your symptoms are really strong, there are practitioners who can help you. But even if you start by going to a therapist, you can eventually learn to do it on your own.

Tapping World Summit

Today is the perfect day to learn more about tapping, because today the 8th Annual Tapping World Summit begins online. This 10-day program features many experts in the holistic health field who use the technique to help themselves and their clients.

Some of the presentations directly address how you feel because of your involvement with the sociopath, such as the sessions on “Releasing Anxiety” or “Letting Go of the Hurt.”

But other topics are like self-help books, such as “Clearing Debt” and “Tapping for Unstoppable Confidence.” That’s because EFT tapping is not only good for dealing with psychological and emotional problems, it also works for performance enhancement.

The Tapping World Summit is free — all you have to do is log on to the Internet to listen to the presentations. There will be two presentations per day for 10 days, with a few bonus presentations thrown it.

Here’s the schedule:

2016 Tapping World Summit Schedule

How does it work?

So the question is, how exactly can you relieve psychological problems by tapping on your face? It seems too goofy to work.

In truth, the power of the technique isn’t totally understood. But Dr. David Feinstein, author of The Promise of Energy Psychology, which is another fabulous book, explained what is known and surmised about the process.

You can listen to his complete interview with Jessica Ortner, one of the hosts of the Tapping World Summit, below.

      Interview with Dr. David Feinstein

 

Or read the transcript:

Transcript of interview with Dr. David Feinstein

Science behind the tapping

Dr. Feinstein explains that tapping on the specific acupressure points reduces arousal in the amygdala — the part of the brain, which I mentioned above, that sets off the fight-flight-or-freeze reaction. As a result:

There is no emotional response to what may have been a horrible scene. So the person still has a memory, but their brain is not going into a whole sequence that involves pumping cortisol through the system and adrenaline, etc. So that becomes the new normal.

Tapping also stimulates delta waves in the brain, which is the same brain frequency that occurs during deep sleep. Delta waves help the brain discard memories. Dr. Feinstein explains:

If you bring to mind a traumatic memory at the same time the brain is in high delta, that has the impact of just eradicating the emotional part of that memory.

Memory operates in different systems. The major systems are explicit memory and implicit memory. The emotional response is stored in what’s called implicit memory. That is you’re overwhelmed, you had a really strong emotion and it goes into this memory system as fragments. It may be that these are images or feelings or sensations. The delta waves eradicate that.

Neurologists call it depotentiation. Depotentiation means that the neural pathways literally dissolve. They no longer exist.

The third thing that tapping seems to do, Dr. Feinstein says, is affect what he describes as “organizing fields” that coordinate the activity of millions of neurons in the brain that operate instantaneously.

Studies in Rwanda

In the interview, Dr. Feinstein describes some of the research studies that have been done related to tapping. He admits that much more research needs to be done, but studies completed so far are promising.

One study was done in Rwanda, 12 years after the people in the country were decimated by genocide. A group of 50 teenagers in an orphanage were rated by their caretakers as having the highest ratings of PTSD. Most of the kids had seen their parents slaughtered with machetes.

The research team planned to give each teenager three EFT sessions. But another emergency broke out in the country, so there was only time to give each teenager one treatment.

The result? After only one treatment, 94% of the kids were no longer rated as having PTSD. A year later, 92% of them still did not have PTSD.

Those are dramatic results.

Another study of 145 adults in Rwanda had the same impact — after one treatment, the PTSD was gone.

The technique has also been effective with veterans of the Vietnam war, who had been suffering with PTSD symptoms for decades.

If tapping can help the survivors of genocide and combat, perhaps it can help you as well.

I encourage you to check out the Tapping World Summit. Yes, they want you to buy the CDs of the event, but you don’t have to. So it’s online, it’s free, and it may help you feel better fast.

8th Annual Tapping World Summit

 

 



10 Comments on "What happens to your brain with PTSD, and a promising technique to fix it"

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  1. DancingTree41 says:

    OK, Donna, you have my full attention.
    I have Complex PTSD, and am building my tool kit for how to deal with it, and how to be more functional. For me, EMDR works, especially over time, with practice.
    I will look into this tapping technique now. Being a healer, trained in acupressure, I will be correlating using the tapping technique with my acupressure experience, along with monitoring my limbic system’s responses. This ought to be interesting.
    I’d read about tapping before, but never was motivated to try it out. With your recommendation, and I DO trust all that you’ve shared here at LoveFraud, I will go ahead with trying out a new healing tool.
    Thanks!



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    • DancingTree41 – great! Perhaps you can track your results. There have been studies of using tapping to help combat veterans, war trauma victims and traumatized children, but I haven’t heard of any research related to survivors of sociopaths, narcissistic abuse, etc. I hope at some point to work with the EFT tapping educators to design a study for a group of Lovefraud readers who are suffering PTSD. I really believe that the technique will help tremendously, but so far there is only anecdotal evidence.

      Also, I recommend David Feinstein’s book, “The Promise of Energy Psychology.”



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  2. Stargazer says:

    I have not explored tapping as much as I could, but seeing you mention it repeatedly over the years, Donna, makes me want to give it another look. I had PTSD much of my life but didn’t realize it until a therapist told me a few years back that PTSD symptoms can sometimes look a lot like BPD, which is what I used to think I had. I was very lucky to discover meditation in my twenties, and I did it very intensively for a few years – sometimes for weeks and even months in a retreat setting. A simple way to describe meditation is simply practicing at being present. The vehicle for coming back to the present moment is the breathing, which I learned to pay attention to. This very simple practice literally saved my life. As I fought and struggled to stay focused in the present moment for minutes, hours, days, weeks….the trauma my body was holding started to move out. I experienced so much healing on these retreats – it was really a surprising byproduct of meditation practice. You simply cannot live in the present moment AND the future or the past at the same time.

    What I like about tapping is that you are not only clearing trauma but reprogramming your body to accept love. It’s been very powerful for me whenever there is a clearing of some very painful emotional blockage to fill the space with self love and acceptance and to have compassion for myself. Sometimes just letting a little of that seep in goes a long way!



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  3. Stargazer and DancingTree41 – both of the techniques that you mention – meditation and EMDR – are extremely helpful in overcoming PTSD. Trauma is caused by feeling helpless in the face of jeopardy. You feel threatened, and you feel like there is no escape from the threat. The experience is stored in your body, whether it’s in your muscles or deep in your brain.

    If this occurs when you are a child, the trauma can have major impact on how you deal with the world.

    This is thoroughly explained in “The Body Keeps the Score.” The author, van der Kolk, also points out how the typical response of today’s doctors – handing out drugs – may keep a lid on the problems, but doesn’t solve them. Real healing comes by getting in touch swith the trauma in your body and releasing it.



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  4. Teresa says:

    I can highly recommend EFT and have used it myself to recover from PTSD, Psychopathic abuse, Co-dependancy as well as many health problems including severe M.E and Fibromyalgia. Matrix Reimprinting is a specialized form of EFT and is what has transformed my whole life from feeling suicidal to amazing.It saved my life, I wouldn’t still be here without it. I have now trained in EFT, Matrix Reimprinting, Counselling,NLP and CBT and am passionate about helping people recover from narcissistic abuse and create great relationships. I have now let go of my narcissist magnets and now only attract caring and supportive people into my life. I would like to add that all EFT training warns people not to use tapping on themselves on big traumas as it will take people back into the trauma and they will re experience it. It is however safe to tap on minor traumas when alone.Sometimes then if the emotions don’t shift it can be because of a blind spot which a practitioner can help you find. I work on Skype as well as 1 to 1 and am happy for people to e-mail me on teresanorrisbefree@yahoo.co.uk if they would like more information.



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  5. AnnettePK says:

    I found a short Youtube video that guides the viewer through a short tapping session. I downloaded it on my mobile device and would watch it and “tap along” from time to time. I think it helped me, and probably would have helped if I did it more often.

    EMDR is another calming therapy that you can do yourself. My brother who is a counselor uses the technique, and attests to its effectiveness. There are Youtube videos that guide one through an EMDR therapy session.

    I also found that playing solitare on a laptop or larger screen acted as an EMDR therapy session. I also found that focusing on playing the simple game acted as a hypnotic type distraction. When I was particularly stressed in the midst of the psychopathic horror, I played solitaire for hours at times. I perceive it helped calm my mind; and no negative side effects of Rx meds or alcohol.



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    • aintgonnatakeitnomore says:

      On the solitaire being therapy, almost hypnosis…Ditto.
      Exactly my experience, in fact.
      I still do it. 🙂



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    • NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

      I agree. I also played. It helped me to break out of circular thinking. I called it a “mini mind vacation”. I didn’t have lf then, but I did discover many aids that helped me, and find them discussed here. I am so glad to find another that affirms I was NOT crazy! (thinking I was giving my brain a vacation???, yes I was ridiculed for it.)

      As far as PTSD goes, there are many forms. I tapped until I was black and blue. But EMDR was a lifesaver. Don’t give up if one form doesn’t work for you. Recovery is as individual as we are.



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  6. Stargazer says:

    I have found that energy work comes in a variety of forms. For me, it is not always a technique but a decision I have made. For instance, I decided this year that I wanted to become completely debt-free – no mortgage, car payments, or credit cards. I found a way to do it by buying a beautiful home in a smaller town. I will be sacrificing my city life and steady job with benefits in order to do it, and it is a big risk. But the night I made the decision, I had a dream that I was flying around in a beautiful place that felt like Neverland. I woke up feeling all this heavy energy leaving my body. I didn’t even realize that heavy energy was there until I started letting go of it. Being debt free gives me freedom to choose whatever job I want and do whatever I want with the money. The release that is coming from that decision feels like an intensified energy clearing session! I believe the act of reaching for something greater than you had previously imagined can have profound healing effects. Usually, there is something I had to let go of in order to take the leap.



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  7. HealingHope says:

    EFT helped me some, but often I was too emotionally exhausted to make myself tap. What has helped me the most and my friends said they noticed the most immediate difference within just a few weeks, is biofeedback. This is brain retraining through sound waves and visual lights which put your brain in either Alpha, Beta, Theta, or Delta whatever is needed at the time. At first I went to a doctor who specializes in this technique, and then I went online and bought my own machine. Check out Mindplace.com. The device has 50 programs and is around $200 (worth every penny!). I mostly use the one for depression when I am down, energy for the morning, and brain retraining while listening to a self-esteem tape when I go to sleep at night. I will never be without one. I was blessed to learn of this treatment through the Institute for Relationship Harm website. They share a lot of good information about what these relationships do to the brain and to help with healing. Also a life saver for me was Melanie Tonia Evan’s website. Blessings to all and much deserved healing.



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