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How HBOT Works for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Patients
Many PTSD cases among veterans often coexist with cases of TBI. As a result, many wonder if, in those cases, PTSD is in some way connected or the result of the damage to the brain. However, not all cases of PTSD are connected to brain injury. In cases where no trauma to the brain occurs, neuroimaging tests reveal that PTSD affects many areas of the brain. This damage includes hippocampal atrophy, altered activity in the insular cortex, and hypoactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. These areas of the brain distinguish between safe and unsafe conditions. They control the brain’s interpretation of stimuli as well as fear conditioning and cognitive and emotional interactions. As a result, all of these areas are typically abnormal in cases of PTSD.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, orHBOT, treatments provide 100 percent oxygen delivered under increased pressure that helps treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This increased oxygen helps heal damaged brain tissue, improves blood flow, reduces inflammation, and promotes the growth of new tissue and blood vessels.
Study Show Effectiveness of HBOT on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Over the last few years, many new studies have looked at the benefit of hyperbaric oxygen and HBOT treatments for those suffering from TBI and/or PTSD. One study conducted by Dr. Paul Harsh and published in Medical Gas Research looked at 29 active-duty or retired military personnel with mild TBIs. All participants suffered from post-concussion syndrome, with some suffering from PTSD. After completing 40 HBOT treatments, 52 percent of those that met the PTSD Checklist-Military diagnosis no longer met the diagnostic threshold. Improvements occurred in general anxiety, depression and PTSD symptoms. Out of 12 participants that expressed suicidal thoughts at the beginning of the study, 10 no longer felt suicidal. Dr. Harsh stated that “The PTSD symptom reduction is one of the greatest reductions in PTSD symptoms in a four-week period with any reported treatment.”
Symptoms of PTSD
With any traumatic event, nightmares or severe anxiety are common, and in most cases expected. But, with time, most people can process the trauma and move forward with their lives. However, with PTSD, those feelings don’t go away. In many cases will worsen to the point that they interfere with everyday activities. In some cases, symptoms do not begin immediately. However, an event can occur months after the initial traumatic event that triggers the PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD break down into four main types:
- Memories – Memories include flashbacks of images from the event where a person goes back to reliving the event. Everyday images or events may bring back memories, resulting in severe emotional reactions or physical reactions.
- Avoidance – Someone with PTSD will try to avoid talking or thinking about the event. They may also avoid people, places and things that remind them of the event. They may become emotionally detached, withdraw from friends and family, and lose interest in everyday activities.
- Changes in Mood and Thinking – With someone suffering from PTSD, you may notice a negative change in mood or thinking. They may feel very negative about themselves and the future. Memory problems may surface. Family detachment and difficulty maintaining relationships become a problem. They feel emotionally numb, losing interest in favorite activities and have a hard time feeling positive about anything.
- Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions – PTSD sufferers can be easily frightened and always on guard. Sleeping and concentrating become difficult. They may seem irritable, aggressive and may participate in self-destructive behavior, such as excessive drinking.
Traditional Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The main two treatments for PTSD are psychotherapy and medications. The goal of treatment is to help the person learn skills to cope with the trauma, as well as treat problems associated with the PTSD. This includes depression, anxiety and the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Medications typically include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. No one treatment works for every patient, so it is a matter of trial and error to see what works.
Psychotherapists use different treatment options including:
- Cognitive Therapy – This therapy focuses directly on the trauma behind the PTSD. A therapist will work with patients to identify and understand the trauma while also changing the patient’s thinking and behavioral response to the trauma.
- Exposure Therapy – Exposure therapy helps people face their trauma by exposing them to it while in a safe environment. This therapy can use mental stimulation, writing, or even virtual reality to simulate the traumatic event. Over time, the person becomes less sensitive to the traumatic event.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR) – EDMR involves the use of exposure therapy. At the same time, the patient focuses on a specific sound or eye movement while traumatic thoughts occur. This helps reprogram behavioral actions when traumatic memories are triggered.
- Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) – The goal of this therapy is to reduce anxiety levels by teaching coping skills. This form of therapy is often used together with other methods of dealing with the trauma. The purpose of this therapy is to change the way a person reacts to stress.
- Present Centered Therapy (PCT) – Present therapy works a little different in that it does not focus on the trauma. Instead, it teaches problem-solving skills in order to deal with the trauma.
HBOT, PTSD and the Department of Veterans Affairs
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it would offer hyperbaric oxygen and HBOT treatments for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that had failed or seen little effects from traditional treatment methods. The Veteran’s Administration and Department of Defense have approved and will pay for HBOT treatment for TBIs and PTSD in seven states (AL, FL, GA, MD, NJ, TX and OK) currently. In addition, there are 19 US Congressional Legislators encouraging the VA and DOD to use HBOT for TBIs and PTSD as a treatment option.
Additionally, New York State American Legion Commander Kenneth Governor has been very vocal in his support of HBOT for veterans with TBI and PTSD. He states, “We’re losing 22 veterans a day who take their own lives, with another 44 attempts. We need to offer veterans with TBI/PTSD an alternative to a sliding slope of drug therapy. We need to do it now. Today.”
If you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and would like to see how hyperbaric oxygen and HBOT can benefit you, please give our office a call today. In addition, you may click HERE to fill out a contact form for more information.