Dreaming and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: The Connection

1933 WordsJul 14, 20188 Pages
Introduction According to the dictionary diagnosis in PsychCentral, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as a “debilitating mental disorder that follows experiencing or witnessing an extremely traumatic, tragic, or terrifying event” (PTSD Info & Treatment, 2013). While this definition describes the general definition of PTSD, the DSM-IV states that the criteria for being diagnosed with PTSD varies between a person who “experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others” and/or “the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror” (DSM-IV, Appendix E). Such experiences can include various…show more content…
Because this process in the brain is so sensitive, lots of things can alter it and mess with the “creation and storage” as well everything that makes the thinking part of the brain conscious (Howard & Crandall, page 10). If something does interfere or disrupt with the regulatory processes of the brain, such as danger, or any traumatic experience in this case, the amygdala determines that danger is present. Trauma will trigger the “flight or fight” sequence as well as set off stress hormones that raise adrenaline, including blood pressure and heart rate. While one interference, depending on the amount of fear a person has, may not hurt the brain at once, “if the trauma is prolonged, extreme or repetitive, it can physically injure the brain” (Howard & Crandall, page 14). In the process of damaging the brain, there will be damages done to the automatic system as well, including disturbances in sleep, such as dreams or nightmares. Trauma and Dreams Because the brain is now “injured”, trauma can eventually turn into PTSD through the body becoming “stuck” in the alert stage brought on by the amygdala, or in “hyperarousal” (Herman, 1997), which keeps the body from creating a balanced combination of chemicals in the brain and between the systems in the body. While we know that most dreams correlating with PTSD are usually reenactments or similar situations to the experience of trauma they have had themselves, why is it that these memories are connected
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