Food Intolerance & ADHD – what every parent should know

by Sara Vance, Founder of ReBalance Life

There has been a rise in the number of kids diagnosed with ADD, according to a recent article in the New York Times.  Now 11% of all school-aged children has ADHD, and 1 out of every 5 high school boys will receive an ADHD diagnosis.  This represents a 40% increase in the past decade, which is raising many questions among experts – such as are ADHD medications being overused?

But what is leading to this increase, and what if many of these cases were simply a food sensitivity?  According to this NPR article, a study conducted in the Netherlands and published on February 5, 2011 in the Lancet Journal, found that 64% of diagnosed cases of ADHD was actually caused by a hypersensitivity to food; and when the food was removed, the symptoms improved.  According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Lidy Pelsser, “we have got good news — that food is the main cause of ADHD,” she says. “We’ve got bad news — that we have to train physicians to monitor this procedure because it cannot be done by a physician who is not trained.

Rarely are parents of kids with ADHD given any nutritional/supplementary options, they are simply given the diagnosis and sent home with a prescription for ADHD medication. But these medications are not without risk, including decreased appetite, depression and mood disorders, increased blood pressure, and more. So if the root cause of the inattention is food sensitivities, then shouldn’t we be treating the attention and behavior issues by first identifying and eliminating any offending foods, and adding in nutritional supplements; and if those fail – resorting to the medication?

So until doctors start to recognize and treat ADHD in this way, parents can educate themselves and find a practitioner that can help them navigate this approach to treating focus and attention issues.  Although there is a percentage of kids who nutritional approaches won’t offer a full recovery, according to the study out of the Netherlands, a significant number of kids will benefit from nutritional changes.  The only downside is that a food elimination diet it is not as easy as popping a pill every day. But even those that end up taking medications, many will also benefit from nutritional approaches and certain supplements.

What are the 3 most common foods associated with ADHD-like symptoms?

  1. Dairy.  According to Doris Rapp, M.D., author of Is This Your Child? and The Impossible Child, dairy is at the top of the list of foods that cause behavior, focus & attention problems.   Other signs that your child could have a problem with dairy?  Bed wetting (past toddlerhood), asthma, temper tantrums, frequent ear upper respiratory or sinus infections, and vocal tics or throat clearing.
  2. Wheat/gluten. According to the book Dangerous Grains, written by James, Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, M.A., “About 70% of children with untreated celiac disease show exactly the same abnormalities in brain-wave patterns as those who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.  Mood disorders are also common with gluten intolerances – including aggressive, angry, bullying, and irritable behavior.”
  3. Food colorings and additives.  A total of 15 million pounds of dyes are added to foods each year, many of which are directly marketed at school-aged children.  Food dyes have been linked to behavioral problems, hyperactivity, allergic reactions, and even some cancers. A study published in the journal Lancet in 2007, concluded that food dyes increased hyperactivity in children.  Based on this study, the British government banned the use of food dyes, and all foods that contain dyes in Europe must come with a warning label that says “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”  Read more about the Dangers Associated with Food Dyes at Disease-Proof.

These are 3 of the most common things to consider with regard to ADHD, but there are a number of other foods/substances that could be causing focus and attention problems – including high fructose corn syrup/sugar, pesticides, mercury, soy, eggs, corn – to just name a few.

How could food sensitivities create ADHD-like symptoms?

Nutrient deficiencies could be to blame.  The small intestine is where most nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream.  Consuming foods that the body is sensitive to can cause damage to the small intestine, which can lead to issues in nutrient absorption and utilization.  Another reason for nutrient deficiencies could be extremely picky eating, or a highly processed diet that is lacking in macro and micronutrients.

Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies found in kids with ADHD are:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids – The brain is composed of over 60% fat, so diets must have sufficient amounts of healthy fats in order for our brains to function well. One of the most important fats for the brain is omega 3s – known as essential fatty acids. Essential means that our body can not manufacture them, so they must be consumed.  A 1996 Purdue University study  revealed that kids with learning and behavior problems had lower levels of the omega 3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in their blood. Omega 3s can be found in fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines; as well as nuts, some seeds like chia, and fish oils, like Barleans Omega Swirl.
  • B vitamins – Known as the Anti-Stress vitamins, B vitamins are important for energy, sleep cycles, and metabolism.  B vitamins are also needed for the creation of important brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.   Because they are water soluble vitamins, B Vitamins are not stored in our bodies for very long – so they can very easily become depleted. Two of the B vitamins are particularly important for our brain functioning:
    • Vitamin B6*: is needed for the synthesis of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine – which are brain chemicals that regulate sleep cycles and focus/attention.  Studies show that supplementation with Vitamin B6 with magnesium resulted in reduced central nervous system hyperactivity. *Although Vitamin B6 is water soluble, it is the one B vitamin that can accumulate and possibly lead to permanent nerve damage if taken in an excessively high a dose for long period of time.  (learn more and see tolerable upper limits for Vitamin B6). It is recommended that you work with a Nutritionist or Health Practitioner when supplementing with high doses of vitamin B6.
    • Vitamin B12 is required for the synthesis of amino acids that promote concentration. A B 12 deficiency can cause kids to be hyper, anxious, and also cause obsessive behavior, and if serious – can lead to pernicious anemia and serious neurological issues.  Vitamin B12 can only be manufactured by bacteria – so it is very common for people with food sensitivities or digestive issues to have deficiencies – so identifying food sensitivities and removing them will also improve B12 status.  Also probiotics are beneficial for improvings gut bacteria as well.
    • Although Vitamin B6 and B12 are of particular importance for treating ADHD, I always recommend taking all of the B vitamins together as a full complex – as they work best together synergistically.
  • Magnesium – it is estimated that 70% of the population could be deficient in magnesium, and up to 95% of kids with ADHD (read study). Magnesium is known as the calming mineral, and studies show that supplementing with magnesium can reduce hyperactivity in kids. Studies show that magnesium has also been shown to help with Tourette’s syndrome, which can co-exist with ADHD. The fourth most abundant mineral in the body, magnesium plays a key role in over 300 biochemical processes – including building strong bones, nerve functions, regulating blood pressure, maintaining body temperature, and for allowing muscles (including the heart) to release into a state of relaxation. Magnesium is important for healthy bones, as it helps calcium get into the bones, and also is important for synthesizing vitamin D.  Calcium causes muscular contractions, while magnesium enables the muscles to release. Elevated calcium or depressed magnesium levels can cause muscles to stay in a contracted state.  Low magnesium levels can be associated with constipation, restless leg syndrome, sleep issues, migraines, ADHD/hyperactivity, foot or eye twitches, muscle cramps/pain, irritability, and even an elevated risk of heart disease/stroke.
  • Zinc – low zinc can lead to slow growth, delayed puberty and picky eating, and it is also associated with attention issues. Taking ADHD medication can also deplete zinc levels.  A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, found that those receiving a zinc supplement required 37% less amphetamine to receive the same results compared with those taking amphetamine plus placebo. The zinc appeared to improve the effectiveness of the amphetamine, so that a lower dose was needed for desired results.  Studies have shown a positive correlation between zinc supplementation and behavior improvement.
  • Probiotics – Balancing out the flora in the gut is important for everyone – for immunity and remaining a healthy weight; but it is also important for our brain and mental health.  Our guts and our brains are closely interconnected via the vagus nerve, which is the primary route for the gut bacteria to be transmitted to the brain. So if our gut health is imbalanced, we will not be able to properly produce the neurotransmitters that our brain needs for focus, memory, and attention.  Our gut health is directly reflected in our mood too – studies show that there will be an increase in levels of anxiety when our gut health is imbalanced, read more.
  • High Quality Multivitamin – some kids with food sensitivities can have damage to the small intestine and therefore might have nutrient absorption issues, so even if they are taking a multivitamin or eating a high quality diet, they could still have deficiencies.  For those kids, I recommend a supplement called IntraKID.  It is an all-in-one carbon-bonded organic multivitamin that contains 71 trace minerals, vitamins, herbs, antioxidants, enzymes, probiotics, and more in a highly absorbable fulvic acid base.  IntraKID is only available through practitioners, contact sara@rebalancelife.com for more information or to order IntraKID.

Food elimination diets if not properly done or supplemented, could themselves result in nutrient deficiencies; so working with a Nutritionist or qualified health practitioner is recommended when embarking on a nutritional program to address ADHD.  Doing a food elimination diet is one way to determine if there are sensitivities, but there are also tests that can be done to determine sensitivities.

 

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*This article is for educational purposes only.  The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before taking the above foods, herbs, vitamins or supplements to be sure there are no interactions.

Sara Vance is a Clinical Nutritionist in the Encinitas, CA area.

Sara offers nutritional counseling, School Assemblies, group classes, kids healthy cooking, and more.

Sara have over 100 articles, and several on ADD on her website. Visit ReBalanceLife.com for more information.
Friend Sara Vance at ReBalance Life on Facebook.

©2013, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

Is Your Brain Shrinking Due To Stress? What Are The Signs?

Read more at www.BachFlower.com Stress and the Brain
BachFlower.com DirectlyfromNature.com – Brain

Stress, fear, anxiety, panic, is treated with Bach Flower Remedies. Rescue Remedy is indicated for trauma, impatiens, daydreaming, stress, restlessness, panic attacks, temper tantrums and many more.   Bach 7 groups, Bach 7 flowers, and Rescue Remedies are often mentioned.  Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil have spoken about exhaustion and low sex drive.  Pharmaceutical solutions for feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, insomnia are unsatisfactory.  Sleep problems, nervous tension, performance anxiety are example of reasons people trusted Bach Flower Remedies for over 80 years.

Researchers Discover the Telltale Signs and Unexpected Cause of Brain Shrinkage – Stress

Stress, fear, anxiety, panic, insomnia and depression rob us, men and women, of our immediate quality of life.  Now a team of researchers from Yale University have discovered that if emotional imbalances persist or are severe enough, that it causes reductions in the amount of gray matter in parts of the brain that control physiological and emotional functioning; potentially causing permanent emotional and cognitive impairment.  The report which was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry indicates that persistent emotional imbalances also reduce grey matter in parts of the brain that regulate physiological functions such as blood pressure and glucose levels.

What the Study Authors Believe

The lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry, Emily Ansell, believes that that an increase in the amount of stressful life events one endures could impact the individual’s ability to handle future stressful situations; a sentiment shared by Fellow Yale and Foundations Fund professor Rajita Sinha, who works in the Department of Neurobiology and the Yale Child Study Center.  Dr. Sinha said the study brings to light the increased importance of finding ways to help people cope with stress properly.  “The brain is dynamic and plastic and things can improve — but only if stress is dealt with in a healthy manner,” Sinha was quoted as saying. “If not, the effects of stress can have a negative impact on both our physical and mental health.”

Dr. Edward Bach’s Discoveries

Interestingly, the observation that emotional imbalances can be at the root of illness, decease or impaired healing was the trust behind the life and work of Dr. Edward Bach.  Dr. Bach practiced medicine in late 19th century as a renowned Harley Street general practitioner, surgeon and researcher in bacteriology and immunology, says Bettina Rasmussen, CEO of BachFlower.com.

Emotional Balance for Healthier Minds and Bodies

Dr. Bach discovered 38 plant and flower remedies that help us balance our emotions and free us from stress, fear, anxiety and depression, continues Rasmussen.  Bach Flower has been a trusted name for over 80 years for its natural non-addictive remedies to treat the emotional imbalances behind stress, fears and depression.

What Professionals and Celebrities Do

The Bach Flower Remedies have an enthusiastic following which includes Dr. Oz (Dr. Oz Show), Dr. Phil (Dr. Phil Show), Oprah Winfrey; and many public figures that live under a lot of stress, such as Selma Hayek, Emma Watson, Jennifer Anniston, Cate Blanche, Martha Stewart and countless others.

Rasmussen says that Bach Flower Remedies and Rescue Remedy can now be found in many health food and nutrition stores, or online at www.DirectlyfromNature.com
DirectlyfromNature.com is the distributor for BachFlower.com and it serves online (Internet) end-users and the retail and wholesale market with the Bach Flower Remedies, 38 remedies kits, books, displays and marketing materials.

Dr. Oz (the Dr. Oz Show) suggests 7 tips that he finds useful to reduce stress.

Tips for Reducing Stress

  • Take More Restroom Breaks
  • Show Up Five Minutes Early
  • Change Your Stress Eating Habits
  • Quit Stress Drinking
  • Get Your Heart Pumping with Exercise
  • Make It a Comedy Night
  • Enjoy the Company of Friends

 

Media Contact:
Bettina Rasmussen
info@BachFlower.com
www.BachFlower.com
www.DirectlyfromNature.com
Tel. 800 214 2850

 

All the information, shared on this website is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition. This website is not a replacement for the relationship you have with your healthcare provider.  Consult your Physician or healthcare provider before taking any medication.

Restricted diets can help children with ADHD, study suggests

Different foods trigger different behavioral problems and should be monitored, according to paper in the Lancet

* Sarah Boseley, health editor
* The Guardian, Friday 4 February 2011
* Article history

Ritalin is widely used to treat children diagnosed with ADHD, but a paper in the Lancet suggests changing diet may be as effective.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), who are impulsive, inattentive and unable to sit still, should be put on a restricted diet for several weeks to establish whether particular foods are the cause, scientists say today.

Certain foods and additives can worsen the behavior of some children, although guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) say there is no proof that cutting out fatty acids, food colorings or additives can help.

A paper published today in the Lancet medical journal establishes that food is responsible for ADHD children’s erratic and difficult behavior in many cases, although it is likely that different foods trigger behavioral problems in different children. The findings are likely to be welcomed by those who are concerned about the amount of drug treatment given to children with ADHD.

Researchers from the Netherlands put 50 children with ADHD on a “restricted elimination diet” consisting of foods with the least possible risk of allergic reaction – a combination of rice, meat, vegetables, pears and water – which was tailored to the preferences of each child. A second group of 50 children were not put on a diet, but their parents were given advice on healthy eating and asked to keep a diary of everything their child ate.

The behavior of 78% of the 41 children who completed the five-week restricted diet phase improved, while the behavior of those who were not on a special diet remained the same.

Researchers then tried adding particular foods high in immunoglobulin G (IgG), antibodies known to trigger allergic responses, to the restricted diet. They subsequently added foods that were low in IgG – to find out whether blood tests for the antibodies could be used to identify foods that trigger ADHD. However, 63% of the children relapsed and there was no difference in the response to low IgG or high IgG foods.

The researchers conclude that – although food sensitivity plays a part in ADHD, it is not caused by an allergic reaction.

“We think that dietary intervention should be considered in all children with ADHD. This provided that parents are willing to follow a diagnostic restricted elimination diet for a 5-week period, and that expert supervision is available,” say Professor Jan Buitelaar of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre and Dr Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in Eindhoven.

“Children who react favorably to this diet should be diagnosed with food-induced ADHD. They should enter a challenge procedure to define which foods each child reacts to, increase the feasibility and minimize the burden of the diet. In children who do not show behavioral improvements after following the diet, standard treatments such as drugs, behavioral treatments, or both should be considered.”

British experts welcomed the findings. “This study provides further evidence for the potential value of dietary approaches to the treatment of ADHD,” said Professor Jim Stevenson of the University of Southampton. “It is a condition that disrupts family life, interferes with the child’s ability to sustain friendships with other children and places the child at risk of longer term problems with attainment in school. Many parents are reluctant to use a drug treatment and it is important that alternatives such as the few foods approach can be shown to be effective.”

But professor David Daley at Nottingham University’s institute of mental health said there was more work to do. “Scientifically, I think this paper offers excellent evidence about another possible underlying cause of ADHD, but it would be premature to conclude such dietary intervention would be of any clinical benefit to children with ADHD and their parents. We need to know more about how expensive the intervention is, how motivated parents must be to make it work, and how easy it is for parents to get their child to stick to the diet,” he said.

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Please read about these Bach Flower Remedies 

Clematis, are used for those who daydream, living in a fantasy world and are not really present.

Impatiens, are for those who are quick in action and impatient.

Gentian, are used for those who easily get discouraged at small setbacks.

Walnut, are used when the person easily gets distracted by noises, motions and commotion. They have a hard time focus on what they are going or supposed to be doing.

Elm, are for those who easily get overwhelmed.

Larch, are for those who lack self-confidence.

Vervain, are for those who get overactive due to an idea or an activity.

White Chestnut, are for those who have repeated unwanted thoughts.

The Bach Flower Remedies are 100% safe for the whole family, without any side effects.

www.BachFlower.com

 

Women not getting enough sleep

A recent National Sleep Foundation poll reveals that women are not getting enough sleep. According to the poll, “More than half of American women (60%) say they only get a good night´s sleep a few nights per week or less and 67% say they frequently experience a sleep problem. Additionally, 43% say that daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities. Women’s lack of sleep affects virtually every aspect of their time-pressed lives, leaving them late for work, stressed out, too tired for sex and little time for their friends.

The NSF poll revealed that working women (72%) and single working women (68%) are more likely to suffer symptoms of sleep disorders like insomnia. The report also states that 74% of stay-at-home mothers experience symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week; and that as many as 59% wakeup feeling tired.

According to the NSF, lack of sleep is associated with poor mood, and 79% of women polled report feeling stressed and anxious.

“People who have trouble sleeping often develop elaborate routines over time,” says Phil Gehrman, PhD, CBSM, assistant professor of psychiatry and clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “They become very sensitive to anything they think might threaten their sleep; and one of the things that can disturb sleep is a bed partner.”

We are buried by radio and TV advertising for sleep medications; and even our own doctors are over prescribing sedatives and sleep-inducing pharmaceuticals. Sleep-inducing pharmaceutical products can cause more problems than they solve. A study commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration reported that sleep medications can cause sleep-walking, sleep-eating and even sleep-driving. The more bizarre and dangerous behaviors are linked to sedative-hypnotic products, the class of drugs that help a person fall asleep and stay asleep. A serious consequence of pharmaceutical sleep products are allergic reactions, which on accession are serious enough to cause death.

According to Richard Gelula, the NSF´s CEO, “People who sleep well, in general, are happier and healthier.” When sleep is poor or inadequate, people feel tired or fatigued, their social and intimate relationships suffer, work productivity is negatively affected, and they make our roads more dangerous by driving while sleepy and less alert.
Concerns about feeling sleepy at the wheel, is nothing to snooze at. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsiness accounts for 100,000 police-reported automobile crashes each year. An NSF report on a study by Knipling and Wang (Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards Federal Highway Administration) showed that car accidents related to sleep deprivation resulted in more than 1,500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries per year.

There is good news for men and women alike who dream of a happy and satisfactory life in and out of bedroom. Bettina Rasmussen, the CEO of BachFlower.com announce that at last a non-habit forming and fast acting natural sleep aid from the makers of Bach Rescue Remedy® is available for purchase. Bach Flower has been a trusted name in natural non-addictive remedies for more than 80 years. Bach Flower Remedies have an enthusiastic following which includes Dr. Oz (Dr. Oz Show), Dr. Phil (Dr. Phil Show), Oprah Winfrey; and many public figures that live under a lot of stress, such as Selma Hayek, Emma Watson, Jennifer Anniston, Cate Blanche, Martha Stewart and countless others.

According to Bettina Rasmussen, Bach Flower Rescue Sleep and Rescue Sleep Melts are now available at your favorite health food and nutrition stores; or can be ordered conveniently online at www.DirectlyFromNature.com or by calling 800 214 2850.

Tips for Better Sleep

Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, beer, wine, and liquor in the four to six hours before bedtime.

Don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime.

Don’t eat large meals within two hours of bedtime.

Don’t nap later than 3 p.m.

Sleep in a dark, quiet room that isn’t too hot or cold for you.

If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something quiet until you feel sleepy.

Wind down in the 30 minutes before bedtime by doing something relaxing, such as
reading or listening to music.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT, AND SELF-HELP

elinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., contributed to this article. Last reviewed: March 2011

After a traumatic experience, it’s normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected. Usually, as time passes, the upset fades and you start to enjoy life again. But sometimes the trauma you experienced is so overwhelming that you find that you can’t move on. You feel stuck with painful memories that don’t fade and a constant sense of danger.

If you went through a traumatic experience and are having trouble getting back to your regular life, reconnecting to others, and feeling safe again, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When you have PTSD, it can seem like you’ll never get over what happened or feel normal again. But help is available—and you are not alone. If you are willing to seek treatment, reach out to others for support, and work on developing new coping skills, you will be able to overcome the symptoms of PTSD and move on with your life.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Wendy’s Story

Three months ago, Wendy was in a major car accident. She sustained only minor injuries, but two friends riding in her car were killed. At first, the accident seemed like just a bad dream. Then Wendy started having nightmares about it. Now, the sights and sounds of the accident haunt her all the time.

Wendy has trouble sleeping at night, and during the day she feels irritable and on edge. She jumps whenever she hears a siren or screeching tires, and she avoids TV programs that might show a car chase or accident scene. Wendy also avoids driving whenever possible, and refuses to go anywhere near the site of the crash.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless.

Most people associate PTSD with battle–scarred soldiers–and military combat is the most common cause in men–but any overwhelming life experience can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect those who personally experience the catastrophe, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers and law enforcement officers. It can even occur in the friends or family members of those who went through the actual trauma.

PTSD develops differently from person to person. While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear.

Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include:

  • War
  • Natural disasters
  • Car or plane crashes
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Childhood neglect

The difference between PTSD and a normal response to trauma

The traumatic events that lead to post-traumatic stress disorder are usually so overwhelming and frightening that they would upset anyone. Following a traumatic event, almost everyone experiences at least some of the symptoms of PTSD. When your sense of safety and trust are shattered, it’s normal to feel crazy, disconnected, or numb. It’s very common to have bad dreams, feel fearful or numb, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. These are normal reactions to abnormal events.

For most people, however, these symptoms are short-lived. They may last for several days or even weeks, but they gradually lift. But if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms don’t decrease. You don’t feel a little better each day. In fact, you may start to feel worse.

A normal response to trauma becomes PTSD when you become stuck

After a traumatic experience, the mind and the body are in shock. But as you make sense of what happened and process your emotions, you come out of it. With post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), however, you remain in psychological shock. Your memory of what happened and your feelings about it are disconnected. In order to move on, it’s important to face and feel your memories and emotions.

Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell.
While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms:

  1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event
  2. Avoiding reminders of the trauma
  3. Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

Symptoms of PTSD: Re-experiencing the traumatic event

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
  • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)

Symptoms of PTSD: Avoidance and numbing

  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
  • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)

Symptoms of PTSD: Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled

Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Anger and irritability
  • Guilt, shame, or self-blame
  • Substance abuse
  • Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
  • Depression and hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Feeling alienated and alone
  • Physical aches and pains

Symptoms of PTSD in children and adolescents

In children—especially those who are very young—the symptoms of PTSD can be different than the symptoms in adults. Symptoms in children include:

  • Fear of being separated from parent
  • Losing previously-acquired skills (such as toilet training)
  • Sleep problems and nightmares without recognizable content
  • Somber, compulsive play in which themes or aspects of the trauma are repeated
  • New phobias and anxieties that seem unrelated to the trauma (such as a fear of monsters).
  • Acting out the trauma through play, stories, or drawings.
  • Aches and pains with no apparent cause
  • Irritability and aggression

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) causes and risk factors

While it’s impossible to predict who will develop PTSD in response to trauma, there are certain risk factors that increase your vulnerability.

Many risk factors revolve around the nature of the traumatic event itself. Traumatic events are more likely to cause PTSD when they involve a severe threat to your life or personal safety: the more extreme and prolonged the threat, the greater the risk of developing PTSD in response. Intentional, human-inflicted harm—such as rape, assault, and torture— also tends to be more traumatic than “acts of God” or more impersonal accidents and disasters. The extent to which the traumatic event was unexpected, uncontrollable, and inescapable also plays a role.

Other risk factors for PTSD include:

  • Previous traumatic experiences, especially in early life
  • Family history of PTSD or depression
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • History of substance abuse
  • History of depression, anxiety, or another mental illness
  • High level of stress in everyday life
  • Lack of support after the trauma
  • Lack of coping skills

Getting help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

If you suspect that you or a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is confronted, the easier it is to overcome. If you’re reluctant to seek help, keep in mind that PTSD is not a sign of weakness, and the only way to overcome it is to confront what happened to you and learn to accept it as a part of your past. This process is much easier with the guidance and support of an experienced therapist or doctor.

It’s only natural to want to avoid painful memories and feelings. But if you try to numb yourself and push your memories away, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will only get worse. You can’t escape your emotions completely – they emerge under stress or whenever you let down your guard – and trying to do so is exhausting. The avoidance will ultimately harm your relationships, your ability to function, and the quality of your life.

Why Should I Seek Help for PTSD?

  • Early treatment is better. Symptoms of PTSD may get worse. Dealing with them now might help stop them from getting worse in the future. Finding out more about what treatments work, where to look for help, and what kind of questions to ask can make it easier to get help and lead to better outcomes.
  • PTSD symptoms can change family life. PTSD symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you pull away from loved ones, are not able to get along with people, or that you are angry or even violent. Getting help for your PTSD can help improve your family life.
  • PTSD can be related to other health problems. PTSD symptoms can worsen physical health problems. For example, a few studies have shown a relationship between PTSD and heart trouble. By getting help for your PTSD you could also improve your physical health.

Source: National Center for PTSD

Treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Treatment for PTSD relieves symptoms by helping you deal with the trauma you’ve experienced. Rather than avoiding the trauma and any reminder of it, you’ll be encouraged in treatment to recall and process the emotions and sensations you felt during the original event. In addition to offering an outlet for emotions you’ve been bottling up, treatment for PTSD will also help restore your sense of control and reduce the powerful hold the memory of the trauma has on your life.

In treatment for PTSD, you’ll:

  • Explore your thoughts and feelings about the trauma
  • Work through feelings of guilt, self-blame, and mistrust
  • Learn how to cope with and control intrusive memories
  • Address problems PTSD has caused in your life and relationships

Types of treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD and trauma involves carefully and gradually “exposing” yourself to thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind you of the trauma. Therapy also involves identifying upsetting thoughts about the traumatic event–particularly thoughts that are distorted and irrational—and replacing them with more balanced picture.
  • Family therapy. Since PTSD affects both you and those close to you, family therapy can be especially productive. Family therapy can help your loved ones understand what you’re going through. It can also help everyone in the family communicate better and work through relationship problems.
  • Medication. Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety. Antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft are the medications most commonly used for PTSD. While antidepressants may help you feel less sad, worried, or on edge, they do not treat the causes of PTSD.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. Eye movements and other bilateral forms of stimulation are thought to work by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress, leaving only frozen emotional fragments which retain their original intensity. Once EMDR frees these fragments of the trauma, they can be integrated into a cohesive memory and processed.

Finding a therapist for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

When looking for a therapist for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seek out mental health professionals who specialize in the treatment of trauma and PTSD. You can start by asking your doctor if he or she can provide a referral, however, he or she may not know therapists with experience treating trauma. You may also want to ask other trauma survivors for recommendations, or call a local mental health clinic, psychiatric hospital, or counseling center.

Beyond credentials and experience, it’s important to find a PTSD therapist who makes you feel comfortable and safe, so there is no additional fear or anxiety about the treatment itself. Trust your gut; if a therapist doesn’t feel right, look for someone else. For therapy to work, you need to feel respected and understood.

Help for veterans with PTSD

If you’re a U.S. veteran suffering from PTSD or trauma, you can turn to your local VA hospital or Vet Center for help. Vet Centers offer free counseling to combat veterans and their families. To find out more about the resources and benefits available to you, you can also call the VA Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222-VETS.

Click here for a nationwide directory of facilities for veterans, including VA hospitals and Vet Centers, provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Canadian veterans: visit Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) or call 1-800-883-6094 to talk to a peer who has been through similar experiences.

UK veterans: visit Combat Stress or call the 24-hour helpline 0800 138 1619.

Australian veterans: visit Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) or call 1800 011 046.

Trauma therapist referral

For help locating a trauma therapist in the U.S., treatment center, or support group in your area, contact the Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute by email or by phone at (410) 825-8888 ext. 203.

Self-help and support for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a gradual, ongoing processing. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, nor do the memories of the trauma ever disappear completely. This can make life seem difficult at times. But there are many things you can do to cope with residual symptoms and reduce your anxiety and fear.

Reach out to others for support

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can make you feel disconnected from others. You may be tempted to withdraw from social activities and your loved ones. But it’s important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. Support from other people is vital to your recovery from PTSD, so ask your close friends and family members for their help during this tough time.

Also consider joining a support group for survivors of the same type of trauma you went through. Support groups for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can help you feel less isolated and alone. They also provide invaluable information on how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery. If you can’t find a support group in your area, look for an online group.

Avoid alcohol and drugs

When you’re struggling with the difficult emotions and traumatic memories, you may be tempted to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. But while alcohol or drugs may temporarily make you feel better, they make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) worse in the long run. Substance use worsens many symptoms of PTSD, including emotional numbing, social isolation, anger, and depression. It also interferes with treatment and can add to problems at home and in your relationships.

Challenge your sense of helplessness

Overcoming your sense of helplessness is key to overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable. It’s important to remind yourself that you have strengths and coping skills that can get you through tough times.

One of the best ways to reclaim your sense of power is by helping others: volunteer your time, give blood, reach out to a friend in need, or donate to your favorite charity. Taking positive action directly challenges the sense of helplessness that contributes to trauma.

Positive ways of coping with PTSD:

  • Learn about trauma and PTSD.
  • Join a PTSD support group
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Confide in a person you trust
  • Spend time with positive people
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the family

If a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s essential that you take care of yourself and get extra support. PTSD can take a heavy toll on the family if you let it. It can be hard to understand why your loved one won’t open up to you – why he or she is less affectionate and more volatile. The symptoms of PTSD can also result in job loss, substance abuse, and other stressful problems.

Letting your family member’s PTSD dominate your life while ignoring your own needs is a surefire recipe for burnout. In order to take care of your loved one, you first need to take care of yourself. It’s also helpful to learn all you canabout post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The more you know about the symptoms and treatment options, the better equipped you’ll be to help your loved one and keep things in perspective.

Helping a loved one with PTSD

  • Be patient and understanding. Getting better takes time, even when a person is committed to treatment for PTSD. Be patient with the pace of recovery and offer a sympathetic ear. A person with PTSD may need to talk about the traumatic event over and over again. This is part of the healing process, so avoid the temptation to tell your loved one to stop rehashing the past and move on.
  • Try to anticipate and prepare for PTSD triggers. Common triggers include anniversary dates; people or places associated with the trauma; and certain sights, sounds, or smells. If you are aware of what triggers may cause an upsetting reaction, you’ll be in a better position to offer your support and help your loved one calm down.
  • Don’t take the symptoms of PTSD personally. Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include emotional numbness, anger, and withdrawal. If your loved one seems distant, irritable, or closed off, remember that this may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.
  • Don’t pressure your loved one into talking. It is very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make things worse. Never try to force your loved one to open up. Let the person know, however, that you’re there when and if he or she wants to talk.

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The Bach Flower Remedies can help deal with PTSD, here is a small list of some of the remedies that can help:

Star of Bethlehem: Helps remove the trauma
Aspen: Helps when you have fears but cannot put a name on them
Mimulus: Helps when you have fears that you can put a name on
White Chestnut: Helps when you have repeated unwanted thoughts
Elm: When you feel overwhelmed and depressed
Red Chestnut: When you fear bad things might happen to your loved ones
Rock Rose: When you have frozen fears, unable to think, react or move
Sweet Chestnut: When you need faith that everything will be okay

The Bach Flower Remedies are 100% safe and can be used by the whole family