PTSD & Complimentary Treatments
Author: Dr. Diann Sanford, Psy.D
In this article, this author will consider the implications of the work of Dr. Shauna Shapiro and an article published in the International Journal of Stress Management, about trauma sensitive yoga (West, Liang, & Spinazzola, 2016). Next, this writer continues on to outline the significance of the practice of mindfulness, and suggests how mindfulness can be integrated into the current medical model. A discussion of the mind and body practices of this author concludes the paper.
Research on PTSD (West, Liang, & Spinazzola, 2016) with adult women, who suffered from chronic child abuse, shows that traditional trauma treatments are often unsuccessful at delivering help for somatic complaints and their loss of attentiveness to their own physical being and emotional being in the present moment. Themes (gratitude, compassion, relatedness, acceptance, centeredness, and empowerment) were identified as appropriate to help reduce PTSD symptoms and to improve the capacity to recognize, tolerate and use one’s own personal internal states. This study found that techniques that increase mindfulness international states helped address the way that trauma was held in the body, and that Hatha Yoga, might be most advantageous as it develops a heightened awareness that might build recognition and tolerance of aroused physical states, and lessen avoidance.
Integration of Mindfulness in the Medical Model
Mindfulness could be immensely helpful if it were integrated into the medical model. Often the mere act of receiving medical services increases an individual’s anxiety, blood pressure and fear. Breathing becomes shallower. The constant worry, stress and release of cortisol complicate the situation. These negative emotions interfere with healing and recovery (Karren, Smith, & Gordon, 2014). However, with some illnesses, it might be essential for recovery. For instance, there is much research (West et al., 2016)showing that the use of yoga as complementary treatment in healing chronic trauma increases compassion for one’s own body, often a broader sense of life satisfaction and improvement in relationships were noted along with the increased ability to look inward, and enhanced feeling of personal connection and community.
There are many additional benefits to mind and body practices. Practicing meditation with themes of gratitude and forgiveness, decrease the stress responses in the body. Instead, they trigger the release of positive chemicals, such as oxytocin (the love hormone). These practices can increase serotonin function, one’s personal level of control, self-esteem and the reversal of high blood pressure. The integration of these meditation and mindfulness ways of being into the medical model would result in a higher individual locus of control, lessen the need for medical interventions, and possibly help individuals suffering from PTSD experience emotions of safety and comfort (West et al., 2016).
In conclusion, this author believes that the significance of mind and body practices cannot be understated. Studies show that women suffering from PTSD (West et al., 2016) made significant gains when practicing Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY). They experienced empowerment and personal growth by feeling that they now had control over their bodies, emotions and thoughts. They felt a sense of ownership. Much research links positive affect, autonomy, optimism, vitality and competence with the practice of mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness and mediation can be instrumental to overall good health and well-being (Karren et al., 2014).
- Carlson, N. R., & Birkett, M. A. (2016). Physiology of Behavior (12th ed.). New York, N.Y.: Pearson Education, Inc.
- Compton, W. C., & Hoffman, E. (2013). Positive Psychology (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
- Karren, K. J., Smith, N. L., & Gordon, K. J. (2014). Mind Body Health (5th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.
- West, J., Liang, B., & Spinazzola, J. (2016, July 4). Trauma Sensitive Yoga as a Complementary Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Qualitative Descriptive Analysis. International Journal of Stress Management, 24, 173-195. https://doi.org/doi.org/10.1037/str0000040
“Techniques that increase mindfulness intentional states help address the way that trauma is held in the body, Hatha Yoga, might be most advantageous as it develops a heightened awareness that has the capacity to build recognition and tolerance of aroused physical states, and lessen avoidance.”
– Dr. Diann Sanford, Psy. D