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Posstraumatic Stress Disorder and Lavender Essential Oil

Updated on April 22, 2015
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PTSD and Alternative Treatment Options

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD affects thousands of Americans, and is increasing in the US and globally as traumatic events increase. In the early 1900s during WWI the term "shell shock" was used to describe combat symptoms which occurred due to the inability to flee danger. They included a sense of helplessness, panic, mental confusion, insomnia, and nightmares. At that time the treatment consisted of allowing the soldier to have a leave from active duty for a few days to rest, but he was not necessarily removed from his unit or the combat environment. During WWII a new term "combat fatigue" described symptoms which resulted from being in active combat and included hypervigilance, an inability to relax, feeling a sense of imminent doom, mental confusion, chronic exhaustion, edginess, and a desire to flee the traumatic environment. Soldiers were given brief furloughs away from the fighting and sent back to their units as soon as possible afterward. During the Vietnam War the term posttraumatic stress disorder emerged and referred to the collection of signs and symptoms which are still identified today: reexperiencing, avoidance, and hypervigilance. Previously, it was thought that PTSD only affected men who were returning from combat. During the this time it was discovered that nurses who had experienced rape also exhibited the same symptoms as soldiers who had been in active combat. Scientists began researching broader affects of trauma and found more sub-populations of sufferers. Today, any personal traumatic experience or witnessed trauma qualifies as an event that can lead to a diagnosis of PTSD if the appropriate symptoms are present and the duration sufficient. Also, the rage or outbursts of anger related to PTSD is now recognized in the diagnostic manual for psychologists and psychiatrists. Men who reported "seeing red" or "blacking out" during emotional crises are no longer considered fabricators.

PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder by mental health professionals. The reason is found in the above paragraph. Experiencing one major, or a collection of minor traumatic experiences affects the central nervous system (CNS), and leads to symptoms that are congruent with a nervous system disorder. Although anxiety is the major characteristic of PTSD there may be co-occurring depression. Psychologists believe that this syndrome begins deep in the brain. There are two functional units (hippocampus and amygdala) in what is called the limbic system, which regulates long-term memory, emotion, adrenaline flow, behavior, and motivation. One can see how those functions are regulated through the nervous system.

hippocampus
hippocampus | Source
amygdalae
amygdalae | Source

Brain Structures Related to PTSD

Treatment Options

Medications can address come of the physical symptoms of PTSD, but will not "cure" the disorder, and usually have side effects. Prolonged exposure therapy (PET) can help the trauma survivor acclimate to triggers in the environment and eventually the traumatic event itself. Cognitively-based therapy can help the individual reframe faulty thoughts and patterns of thinking which can also reduce the stress of the symptoms. These methods, though may not address the chronic elevation of the functions of the nervous system.

Alternative therapies can assist the brain and body in accessing the PNS response over time as needed. Each individual will respond differently to different stimuli and at different times. For instance, many individuals who live with panic disorder state that an attack will take them unaware, and usually at a time when they believe they are already relaxed and not thinking about being stressed. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and massage therapy have been proven to be effective in activating the PNS response. Over time these methods can cause the natural PNS response to occur at will or even prevent anxious responses.

Another effective method for inducing a PNS response is through the use of essential oils which can be diffused into the air or used topically. Lavender has the ability to reduce anxiety of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. It can also help induce sleep. Lavender is particularly effective when diffused or when applied to the bottoms of the feet. One drop massaged into the skin will disperse throughout the body via the blood stream, and have a general calming effect. Lavender oil can also be mixed with coconut oil and applied all over the body. Add 5-10 drops of essential oil per Tbsp. of coconut oil. Other oils that reduce the effects of stress and anxiety are lemon and other citrus fruit oils like orange and grapefruit. They are most effective when vaporized or even placed on a tissue or small piece of fabric and wafted into the air. They lift the spirit and emotions without a synthetic response that is too intense and can have side effects. Research has indicated that ylang ylang oil applied to the skin can decrease blood pressure compared to a non-treatment group. Geranium essential oil is gentle and may not need to be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied directly to the skin. Place one drop at the back of neck about one inch below the skull, or place one drop on the inner wrist. Trauma is not easy to live with, but there are natural remedies that can bring relief quickly and without side effects. Essential oils are one empirically-based route.

Source

Essential Oils

Treatment Options

Medications can address come of the physical symptoms of PTSD, but will not "cure" the disorder, and usually have side effects. Prolonged exposure therapy (PET) can help the trauma survivor acclimate to triggers in the environment and eventually the traumatic event itself. Cognitively-based therapy can help the individual reframe faulty thoughts and patterns of thinking which can also reduce the stress of the symptoms. These methods, though may not address the chronic elevation of the functions of the nervous system.

Alternative therapies can assist the brain and body in accessing the PNS response over time as needed. Each individual will respond differently to different stimuli and at different times. For instance, many individuals who live with panic disorder state that an attack will take them unaware, and usually at a time when they believe they are already relaxed and not thinking about being stressed. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and massage therapy have been proven to be effective in activating the PNS response. Over time these methods can cause the natural PNS response to occur at will or even prevent anxious responses.

Another effective method for inducing a PNS response is through the use of essential oils which can be diffused into the air or used topically. Lavender has the ability to reduce anxiety of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. It can also help induce sleep. Lavender is particularly effective when diffused or when applied to the bottoms of the feet. One drop massaged into the skin will disperse throughout the body via the blood stream, and have a general calming effect. Lavender oil can also be mixed with coconut oil and applied all over the body. Add 5-10 drops of essential oil per Tbsp. of coconut oil. Other oils that reduce the effects of stress and anxiety are lemon and other citrus fruit oils like orange and grapefruit. They are most effective when vaporized or even placed on a tissue or small piece of fabric and wafted into the air. They lift the spirit and emotions without a synthetic response that is too intense and can have side effects. Research has indicated that ylang ylang oil applied to the skin can decrease blood pressure compared to a non-treatment group. Geranium essential oil is gentle and may not need to be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied directly to the skin. Place one drop at the back of neck about one inch below the skull, or place one drop on the inner wrist. Trauma is not easy to live with, but there are natural remedies that can bring relief quickly and without side effects. Essential oils are one empirically-based route.

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