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PTSD: Why are some people more at risk than others?


PTSD: Why are some people more at risk than others?


So many people witness one or more traumatic experiences in their lifetime, but not all of them go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, only about 25-35% of people who experience trauma would develop PTSD. So, why are some people more at risk than others?

There have been many studies on that, and I've talked about how PTSD risk is tied to genetic vulnerability. Now, there's more information and it appears our stress hormones also have a role to play.

A new study has revealed that the onset of PTSD is influenced by glucocorticoid levels, hormones that help our bodies respond to stress.

If glucocorticoids are produced in low amounts, the individual may be predisposed to PTSD.

Past analyses have even hinted at this because glucocorticoids are usually found to be low in PTSD patients.

To verify this hypothesis, the researchers tested specially selected rat models. They conducted MRI scans and discovered that a blunted responsiveness to glucocorticoids led to impaired fear extinction, reduced hippocampal volume, and rapid-eye-movement sleep disturbances, all of which increase one's PTSD risk.

Fear extinction is a process by which a conditioned fear response diminishes over time. When this process is impaired, you tend to retain your conditioned fear response, meaning you'll continue to react the same way to events similar to the traumatic experience you had. The fear remains as strong as ever, never diminishing. And that's how PTSD works.

The bottom line

Having low glucocorticoids can increase one's vulnerability to PTSD. But how does this information help us?

Well, for starters, using solutions like glucocorticoid drugs may potentially help PTSD patients. But most importantly, if we know those people who are susceptible to PTSD, they may be able to get help quickly after a traumatic experience so that they never get to suffer the symptoms as much.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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