Brain Change and PTSD: Proof Recovery is Possible
In regard to PTSD, I've heard so many times - from both survivors and clinicians - once you're broken you can't be fixed (Three Ways Trauma Affects Your Brain). Really? I find that hard to believe.
And now, there's proof that's all a bunch of baloney.
Your Brain Can Change and Recover From PTSD
In my own trauma recovery, I got to a day that things seemed so dire and destined never to change that I almost gave up. And then a little voice inside me said, Go dance. Ridiculous, right? Not really. Dancing made me feel free, transcendent, joyful and very in the present moment.
I listened to that little voice and signed up for dance classes every day of the week. Seven straight days of every week of every month, I danced every day for four months. I stopped working on my PTSD recovery and just chased after the good feelings that dance brought me.
I didn't know it, but I was doing something years ago that science today proves works: I was creating positive experiences for myself that trained my brain to rewire. And you know what? It was fun! Not only that, all of those good feelings became addictive. I couldn't get enough.
In addition to shocking me with the fact that I could actually feel joy (I had long suspected that would never be possible for me) all of that good feeling translated into a new strength and courage that allowed me to go back into the work of PTSD healing. This time, I finally and completely got the job done.
A few years after my PTSD recovery, I went to the annual trauma conference in Boston. The focus of the conference was heavily in the direction of the emerging neuroscience research. A lot of it proved how with MRIs and fMRIs we can actually see how PTSD impacts and changes the brain. Which got me to thinking....
If trauma impacts the brain in such a way that we develop PTSD, meaning the experience of trauma causes the brain to change, then can't a subsequent experience also cause the brain to change? Was that, in fact, what I had done with all those positive hours of dance experience? Maybe. I cornered a neuroscientist who had presented at the conference and asked him point blank:
If neurological PTSD symptoms come about in response to a powerful psychological experience, is it possible to reverse those neurological changes by engaging in an equally powerful opposite experience?
“You mean, instead of experiencing trauma, experiencing a powerful bliss?” David asked. I nodded. “Yes.”
David didn’t even hesitate: “Yes. Definitely. If you could induce an equally powerful inverse experience, it would impact the brain and cause neurological changes.”
Huh. What do you think about that? A scientist, someone hardcore and a stickler for proof, unequivocally said that the brain can change. In fact, what I came to learn later is that not only can the brain change, it is hardwired to change. You are genetically built for your brain to change again and again and again until the end of your life.
Now, doesn't all that just make you begin to think about recovery in a whole new way? You are perfectly fine. Your neuronal pathways and activity just needs to be changed. Work? Of course. Doable? Eminently.
Rosenthal, M. (2013, January 30). Brain Change and PTSD: Proof Recovery is Possible, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2013/01/brain-change-ptsd-proof-recovery-is-possible
Author: Michele Rosenthal
My thing is horses and horse back riding. I will try dancing. That sounds lovely. Thank you!
But this has helped me to have hope.Its very positive.Once I have secured my hoise and finances for my daughter now hes left I will take head and start a different approach along with my psychology treatment.Thankyou
Someone on my facebook page sent me this and I read it not realizing at first it was written by you. You coached me for a while and were wonderful. Thank you.
Also, to any readers, that same Trauma Conference in Boston is happening later this week.
It's SO ENCOURAGING to hear some positive news about PTSD. The picture isn't quite as rosy, YET, for complex PTSD but I have a feeling that will change as well.
If our families or origin are also the source of our trauma, it can stay complicated for a long time. But it's not hopeless.
Always being unwell? Don't believe it for one second. Look up Dr Caroline Leaf. Do her
21 day detox. It will change your life.
There is hope!
I have done a lot of my PTSD work through my artwork, and the end result came as a quiet surprise! I have found peace of mind, and also; the symptoms of PTSD have been nearly eliminated. Not fully gone yet; but I believe that my brain is fully engaged in the completion of my healing.
I highly recommend Dr. Caroline Leaf for more information about this subject. Her work has had great impact on my understanding of the power of our brains.
My life is fast becoming a peaceful harbor, and that is a change worth celebrating!
I agree that healing really can be accomplished. You ask great questions, and this is a great article for bringing clarity to this issue.
Nicely done, Michele.