Anyone dealing with the emotional turmoil, just wants the pain to go away. Today, we have an arsenal of medication which does just that – shuts the pain off, by artificially shutting the brain down.
But providing a pharmacologically induced brain shut down, seems to short circuit mother nature’s cleanup crew, causing a life time of misery, as the victim never really moves on – a pain paradox.
Post traumatic stress disorders
The problem of not being able to shut off the past, so that it intrudes into the present, is referred to as post traumatic stress (PTSD).
Victims of post traumatic stress disorders, re-live their horror years after the event. Expensive psychological support, through councelling and medication, only helps manage the emotions but never truly obliterates the problem.
The pain paradox
Ironically, people who receive no pharmacological support immediately following a trauma, are far less likely to suffer from post traumatic stess disorder (PTSD).
The ability to “survive” is due to mother nature’s cleanup crew.
Mother Nature’s cleanup crew
The body responds to trauma with an enormous shot of the hormone cortisone.
The blast of stress hormone is designed to boost the body’s chemistry, so that it can handle the trying situation.
Cortisol increases fuel supplies – pumping additional sugar into the bloodstream to keep the muscles cells fuelled up. In addition to powering up metabolism, an overload of cortisol zones out memories. (A problem encountered all too often in stressed out exam takers – who end up with a brain freeze).
Applying the cleanup crew to trauma victims
A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University, decided to copy mother nature’s anti-trauma strategy in victims of upsetting ordeals.
People who arrived in the emergency ward following a harrowing incident, were either given a shot of cortisone, via an injection, or just a big injection containing no drug (placebo). The shots were always administered within 6 hours of the event, ensuring the mental distress was still fresh.
A wopping dose of cortisone, made little difference to the current experience, but made a big difference 3 months down the line. People receiving cortisone were significantly less likely to suffer PTSD.
Stress not always bad
In the sports world, the concept of NO PAIN NO GAIN is widely punted. You have to “stress” the muscle to make it stronger.
This research suggests the right dose of cortisone, at the right time, protects against long term pain. The stress hormone ultimately defends us from BAD memories, by extracting them like a rotten tooth. Short term stress can be restorative, it’s long term stress that is deadly.
So, maybe it’s time to rethink our aversion to stress – could too much molly coddling be contributing to mental illness ?High dose hydrocortisone immediately after trauma may alter the trajectory of PTSD: Interplay between clinical and animal studies. European Neuropsychopharmacology (2011) 21 (11): 796. Joseph Zohar, Hila Yahalom, Nitsan Kozlovsky, Shlomit Cwikel-Hamzany, Michael A. Matar, Zeev Kaplan, Rachel Yehuda, Hagit Cohen.
Interested in learning more about the chemistry of stress ?
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