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The Different Treatments of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Ranging From Medications to Different Forms of Therapy Including Eastern Medicinal Practices

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Broadly conceptualized, the term “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) refers to treatments not considered to be standard to the current practice of Western medicine. “Complementary” refers to the use of these techniques in combination with conventional approaches, whereas “alternative” refers to their use in lieu of conventional practices. Of course, many treatments and techniques (e.g., acupuncture) that are considered CAM within U.S. borders are elemental to conventional medicinal practices in other parts of the world.

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The stress that results from traumatic events precipitates a spectrum of psycho-emotional and physiopathological outcomes. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that results from the experience or witnessing of traumatic or life-threatening events. PTSD has profound psychobiological correlates, which can impair the person's daily life and be life threatening. In light of current events (e.g. extended combat, terrorism, exposure to certain environmental toxins), a sharp rise in patients with PTSD diagnosis is expected in the next decade. PTSD is a serious public health concern, which compels the search for novel paradigms and theoretical models to deepen the understanding of the condition and to develop new and improved modes of treatment intervention. We review the current knowledge of PTSD and introduce the role of allostasis as a new perspective in fundamental PTSD research. We discuss the domain of evidence-based research in medicine, particularly in the context of complementary medical intervention for patients with PTSD. Traumatic events are profoundly stressful. The stress that results from traumatic events precipitates a spectrum of psycho-emotional and physiopathological outcomes. In its gravest form, this response is diagnosed as a psychiatric disorder consequential to the experience of traumatic events.

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In 2016, researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California found that the probability that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans would be at high risk of obstructive sleep apnea increased as the severity of their PTSD symptoms increased. Every clinically significant increase in the severity of PTSD symptoms was associated with a 40 percent increase in the probability of being at high risk for sleep apnea (Kopacz MS, Currier JM, 2016). The investigators looked at 195 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, more than 93 percent men, who had visited a VA outpatient PTSD clinic for evaluation of their symptoms. Using clinical questionnaires to evaluate both levels of PTSD and the likelihood of sleep apnea, they found that 69.2 percent of these Veterans were at high risk of developing sleep apnea, and that the risk increased with the severity of their PTSD symptoms. This was despite the fact that many of them did not have a high body mass index or high blood pressure, considered classic predictors of sleep apnea. Other autoimmune disorders these Veterans were at increased risk of developing included multiple sclerosis, lupus, inflammation of the thyroid, and inflammatory bowel disease. The study did not show that PTSD causes autoimmune disease, only that there is a relationship between the two conditions (Franke LM, Walker WC, 2016).

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Altogether, research also suggests further opportunities for the VA and other health care systems to develop new and innovative ways to overcome barriers to treating veterans with PTSD. With veterans and their families increasingly seeking care outside of the VA system, community providers play a key role in helping to address these challenges. It is critical they receive the education, training, and tools to improve their understanding of and skills for addressing the needs of this unique population.

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Distinction in EEG slow oscillations between chronic mild traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Franke LM, Walker WC, Hoke KW, Wares JR. PTSD is associated with decreases in low-frequency brain wave power, while blast related mTBI is associated with increases in low-frequency power. Int J Psychophysiol, 2016 Aug:106:21-9.

Suicidal behavior and spiritual functioning in a sample of Veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Kopacz MS, Currier JM, Drescher KD, Pigeon WR. Enhanced or diminished spiritual functioning is associated with suicidal thoughts and attempts among Veterans dealing with PTSD. J Inj Violence Res. 2016 Jan;8(1):6-14.

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The Different Treatments of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Ranging From Medications to Different Forms of Therapy Including Eastern Medicinal Practices
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