What Are Two New Treatments For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? A Clinical Psychology Podcast.
On the podcast, we are always trying to push the boundaries of our psychological knowledge so us, psychology students and psychology professionals, can become even more knowledgeable about human behaviour. Therefore, if another clinical psychology episode, I want to look into cognitive psychology to see what interesting treatments they can offer people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the results are fascinating. You definitely want to keep reading.
This clinical psychology episode has been sponsored by Cognitive Psychology: A Guide To Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
A Brief Introduction To Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
I suspect the vast majority of us already have a passing surface-level knowledge of what PTSD is from our studies. But in case you don’t (or you’re forgotten which is perfectly fine) PTSD is a mental health condition that develops in a person after experiencing a traumatic event. Like being in a warzone or seeing a murder. As well as it is characterised by intrusive thoughts, reliving the event again and again and it impairs a person’s ability to function.
However, there are now newly emerging therapies for PTSD coming out of research and that’s the focus for today’s podcast episode.
Stellate Ganglion Block Therapy For PTSD
The first therapy we’ll look at works in a rather interesting way because this treatment involves having an injection into a person’s neck resulting in calming the parts of the brain system that the traumatic event has caused to become overreactive.
Even more interestingly results from research have been impressive enough that there are more than 50 stellate ganglion treatment centres across the United States where this treatment is done. As well as as always there’s a list of references and studies at the bottom of the blog post.
In addition, some PTSD sufferers who have had the treatment thankfully reported:
· Having better sleep
· Decreases in panic attacks, depression and anxiety
· Feeling less nervous or jumpy
· Having the ability to connect with other people again
· Improvements in sexual function and intimacy
· Better concentration and memory
And before we move on to the next type of therapy I wanted to quickly throw in my personal thoughts on the therapy. This seems great and I’m pleased for all the PTSD sufferers that the treatment seems to be working very well.
However, my problem with this therapy is that it is biomedical model and it fails to address the psychological aspects of PTSD. Since all you’re really doing is treating the biological aspects of the condition, and yes this will have knock-on effects for the psychological aspects. But I just feel like this is too reductionist and biomedical model for my personal liking.
Yet as I said, I am glad that is an effective treatment for PTSD.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
The second treatment we’ll be looking at doesn’t come from or target PTSD specifically. Due to hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses pure oxygen to speed up a person’s healing, and is it often used for different conditions. Like gangrene and decompression sickness. Leading to the question of whether it can actually work for people with PTSD?
It turns out that researchers at Israel’s Tel Aviv University and the Shamir Medical Center studied brain scans of Israeli soldiers that had wartime traumas resulting in PTSD. As well as the scans, as reported in the journal PLOS One, demonstrated physical damage in the front lobe regions and hippocampus.
Therefore, showing that PTSD has an organic brain damage component that of course talking psychotherapies can be very ineffective at treating. As a result, oxygen therapy are argued to be able to effectively treat PTSD brain damage because there is a clear need for physical healing of the emotional wounds.
Furthermore, the reference for this study is below, but in one study involving 65 war veterans with major PTSD, their before and after brain scans showed major improvements in both the frontal lobes and hippocampus because of this new therapy. But the study was small and, of course, a lot more research is needed to confirm the therapy’s effectiveness.
Yet it still shows that the results for the therapy are promising.
The way how hyperbaric treatment works is by increasing the supply of oxygen to the brain to activate the creation of new neurons as well as blood vessels. Then the oxygen infusion reactivates the brain’s stem cells and causes them to grow more, or proliferate if we’re being technical. Also the oxygen stimulates the production of new blood vessels, which is thought to result in an increase in brain activity and restore the normal functioning of the wounded brain tissues as well.
Finally, these treatments are done in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber where the atmospheric pressure is higher than sea-level pressure and the air is rich with oxygen.
Again before we move on, I wanted to throw my thoughts in here, and as always I absolutely love the great new innovative ways how new therapies can get created. It is great that we’re looking to medical treatment as well as psychological treatments for PTSD because psychological treatments clearly cannot fill every gap in PTSD treatment.
However, there is still a lot of importance for psychotherapy, and it still has a critical role to play in the treatment of PTSD.
Why Is Psychotherapy Still Vital For PTSD?
I seriously couldn’t blame you if you’re wondering what’s the point of psychotherapy for PTSD when we have these great new treatments for the condition.
However, psychotherapy is still critical for PTSD treatment because during and after these new treatments, psychotherapy is vital to enhancing the treatment’s success.
For example, individual psychotherapy is vital for PTSD sufferers. Since PTSD generates habits that don’t disappear on their own and it’s important for PTSD sufferers to understand what has happened to them, so they can discuss their painful experiences. Hopefully resulting in the shame and guilt associated with them can go away or dissipate.
This is often done through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which can accelerate the change back from PTSD-based beliefs and reactions to normal healthy and functional responses to the stresses of everyday life.
Family therapy is another vital psychotherapy in PTSD treatment because it can be important to treating the secondary PTSD that the family members suffer from, including children. Due to it’s important for everyone to understand the causes, symptoms and hopeful cures of PTSD to decrease to negative impacts of the emotional outbursts and tensions that PTSD causes within families to decrease.
Lastly, couples therapy can be critical in the healing process of romantic relationships.
Especially if they have been harmed by the PTSD-related anger and outbursts. As well as couples need strong skills for handling these difficult conversations, like cleaning up any resentment they have towards each other created by the PTSD’s impacts on quickness to anger and irritability.
Thankfully, guidance from an effective couples therapist can speed up the healing of attachment between partners. And if this isn’t done then any angry or irritated outbursts from PTSD sufferers can do a lot of damage and harm to their marital bond.
Clinical Psychology Conclusion
PTSD isn’t a pleasant condition in the slightest and as future or current psychologists, it is our job to help support everyone with mental health conditions. So this is why it is so critical to keep learning, studying and creating new treatments so we can try to help everyone we possibly can.
And whilst stellate ganglion block may be available right now for a lot of people, hyperbaric oxygen treatment is still in the research phase for PTSD (but thankfully it is widely used for a lot of other conditions). Yet the point is still clear, if you or someone you know or love has PTSD, then there is a lot of hope for the future.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
FREE AND EXCLUSIVE 8 PSYCHOLOGY BOOK BOXSET
Cognitive Psychology: A Guide To Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies
from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day!
Clinical Psychology and Cognitive Psychology References
Hanling, S.R., Hickey, A., Lesnik, I., Hackworth, R.J., Stedje-Larsen, E., Drastal, C.A., & McLay, R.N. (2016). Stellate ganglion block for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, 41(4), 494-500.
Lipov, E.G., Navaie, M., Brown, P.R., Hickey, A.H., Stedje-Larsen, E.T., & McLay, R.N. (2013). Stellate ganglion block improves refractory post-traumatic stress disorder and associated memory dysfunction: A case report and systematic literature review. Military medicine, 178(2), e260– e264. https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00290.
Lynch, J. (2020). Stellate ganglion block treats posttraumatic stress: An example of precision mental health. Brain and Behavior, 10(11):e01807. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1807
Lynch, J.H., Muench, P.D., Okiishi, J.C., Means, G.E., & Mulvaney, S.W. (2021). Behavioral health clinicians endorse stellate ganglion block as a valuable intervention in the treatment of trauma-related disorders. Journal of Investigative Medicine: The Official Publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research, 69(5), 989–993. https://doi.org/10.1136/jim-2020-001693
Lynch, J.H., Mulvaney, S.W., Kim, E.H., de Leeuw, J.B., Schroeder, M.J., & Kane, S. (2016). Effect of stellate ganglion block on specific symptom clusters for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Military medicine, 181(9), 1135-1141.
Mulvaney, S.W., Lynch, J.H., Curtis, K.E., & Ibrahim, T.S. (2021). The successful use of left-sided stellate ganglion block in patients that fail to respond to right-sided stellate ganglion block for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms: A retrospective analysis of 205 Patients. Military medicine, usab056. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usab056
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