Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Post-traumatic Stress sufferers need security
Insecurity at root of fear, overreactions
Stress for Success
September 13, 2011

The American Legion has supported veterans suffering from combat stress since World War I, when returned vets were turning up in jails, hospitals, asylums and on street corners, haunted by battles long-gone. Legion research exposed this problem, which helped create the VA.

Decades of wars and research later combat stress is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. The Legion dropped “disorder” because of its stigmatizing implication since many soldiers avoid treatment for fear it will hurt their careers. So I’ll refer to the condition as PTS.

About 20% of Iraq/Afghanistan soldiers are returning with PTS or depression, which is compounded by traumatic brain injury (TBI) and sexual assaults, states a 2008 study by the RAND Corporation. Approximately half have sought treatment from the VA.

According to the cover story of the September 2011 The American Legion magazine, “The War Within: the battle against post-traumatic stress,” today’s vets have benefitted from earlier vets’ experiences. Upon returning home, Viet Nam veterans rejected the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia says Ken Jones, a veteran of that war. He says, “We don’t know what we are, but we aren’t that.” Back before PTS was understood, clinicians diagnosed many vets with paranoid schizophrenia due to their reported symptoms like flashbacks and hyper-vigilance that resembled schizophrenia’s diagnostic criteria of hallucinations and paranoia. Viet Nam era soldiers’ experiences brought PTS to the attention of the medical and research communities and has helped all sufferers of post-trauma stress.

What struck me from the article was a statement made by returning soldier’s wife, Melissa Seligman, when her husband described the aftermath of a suicide bombing he witnessed in Iraq. She said, “There’s something so horrible about somebody being so traumatized … (and) there’s no emotion attached.”

Imagine what the brain must do to detach so from the trauma.

I spoke about PTS with a dear friend, Dr. John Klebba, PhD, Physiological Psychology, a retired Naval Reserve Captain in Naval Intelligence. Jack participated in debriefing of prisoners of war from Viet Nam in 1973 so has first-hand experience with survivors of war trauma.

Dr. Klebba said, “I believe the essential aspect of treating PTSD is the rebuilding of self-confidence and security. Fear is a severe feeling of insecurity. After experiencing the traumas associated with combat those personnel afflicted with PTSD are sensitized to endocrine-neurologically over-react to almost any event they perceive as threatening their sense of security.

“The civilian aspects of coping (achieving security) involve good relationships with family, friends and co-workers. The more competently the PTSD person can handle these situations, the less fearful will be their life-space, and less often will the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system be called into play.

“In many cases there will be instances when the chimeras come storming back, so it is important that the PTSD person be given ‘go-to’ strategies such as whom to call (e.g., VA crisis line: 800-273-8255, press 1), Transcendental Meditation, physical exercise, etc. The more secure and the better they cope the less anxious, misbehaved or depressed they’ll be.”

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at Email her to request she speak to your organization at

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Transcendental Meditation can balance the PTSD brain
Do it twice a day to reduce stress
Stress for Success
September 6, 2011

If you suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder due to repetitive childhood trauma and/or from serving in war zones would you be interested in significantly reducing your symptoms through a natural and free practice? Would it be worth developing this technique and practicing it daily?

Transcendental Meditation, T.M., is the technique I’m referring to. It was introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogii in 1957. Contrary to what some believe TM isn’t a religion nor based on any religious teaching requiring any particular set of beliefs.

Scores of independent scientific studies have established TM’s value. The Journal of Clinical Psychology in 1989, for example, compared the effectiveness of different relaxation techniques in lowering anxiety. TM was found to make the greatest difference. TM was found to help decrease depression, digestive problems, insomnia, psychosomatic disease, and reliance on smoking (for more information go to

It’s applicability to treating PTSD was established by University of CO neurophysiologist Dr. James Austin who documented through the fMRI how T.M. rewires brain circuitry for greater calmness that the trauma wired for anxiety. Also, a pilot study published in the June 2011 issue of Military Medicine found military veterans experienced a 50% reduction in PTSD symptoms after only eight weeks of practicing T.M.

To learn T.M.:
1. Choose a mantra, which is a sound, syllable, word or phrase on which to focus; e.g., “God is love,” “I’m relaxed.”
2. Get comfortable in a quiet place eliminating distractions like kids and telephones. To successfully meditate you must focus. You can lie or sit down.
3. Close your eyes and relax each separate part of your body starting with your feet, working to the top of your head. This becomes easier with practice.
4. Deepen your relaxation by breathing deeper and slower. Consciously inhale slowly and deeply; exhale slowly. Exhale more deeply than you inhale. Count your breaths: inhale to the count of six; hold your breath for four counts; exhale to nine, and hold again for four counts; do over and over. Notice your mind and body relaxing more and more.
5. Focus on your mantra. Repeat it softly for one minute. Each time say it more and more softly. Once you’ve said it as softly as you can, repeat your mantra only in your mind. Don’t force yourself to concentrate on it but feel it relax you. You may become easily distracted at first. If so, deep breathe and refocus on your mantra. Your focus will improve dramatically with practice.
6. Focus on feeling your connection to life itself, while continuing to mentally repeat your mantra for about twenty minutes. When distracting thoughts come to your mind, or if you forget your mantra, calmly allow it to come back and return to focus back on your mantra.

Return your attention to your surroundings naturally after twenty minutes. Always stretch before you get up.

If you suffer from PTSD practice TM twice daily for at least two months to see if it begins to diminish your symptoms. You have nothing to lose but stress.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at Email her to request she speak to your organization at