Posts Tagged ‘hypervigilance’

Transcending a Different Type of PTSD — Helping Children of the Night

October 11, 2011

OPINION

Transcending a Different Type of PTSD — Helping Children of the Night

By

Published October 08, 2011 | FoxNews.com

Lately there has been a storm of publicity – and deservedly so – about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The public has become better educated about this potentially disabling disorder and its symptoms, such as hypervigilance, an exaggerated tendency to startle, flashbacks, nightmares and emotional numbness, to name just a few.

Mental health professionals have emphasized the need to diagnose and treat PTSD wherever it arises.  In this piece, I would like to draw attention to yet another group suffering from PTSD – child victims of prostitution who, against all odds, are trying to go straight and choose a different path in life.

I recently visited a home for such children in the Los Angeles suburbs, part of an organization aptly named “Children of the Night,” which has been operating since 1979 under the guidance of its founder and director, Dr. Lois Lee.

The organization is the most comprehensive social services agency in the country for rescuing America’s children from prostitution – a term Lee prefers to “trafficking,” which she considers too sanitized and not shocking enough for a problem that ought to be shocking but too often hides in plain sight of ordinary citizens.

The story of the young prostitute usually starts with early sexual abuse by a trusted care-giver, creating a trauma that continues to fester in the developing mind and brain of the young person, often resulting in emotional and behavioral difficulties.

The young person runs away – or drifts away – from home and, vulnerable to entrusting his or her safety to untrustworthy adults, goes on to be re-abused by those who pretend to offer love and shelter.

It is an ugly story that inclines us to avert our eyes, change the channel or click on a different web link.  I ask you to resist this natural aversion because these are our children and they can be helped with proper understanding and care. — Lee estimates that her organization has assisted over 10,000 young people since its inception.

In Lee’s opinion, all these children suffer from PTSD.  They are seething with rage, which they either direct outwards – screaming, lashing out, throwing things – or inwards by cutting themselves.

Stressed out in body and mind, many complain of abdominal pains so severe that they need to be taken to the emergency room.  They suffer nightmares and sleep disorders that wake them up at all hours.  Sometimes their distress during sleep is so bad that paramedics need to wake them and help settle them down.

Consider one of these young people, “Annie,” an 18-year-old graduate of the Children of the Night.  When she first came to the program, Annie experienced many symptoms of PTSD.

Like the other girls, she would panic when she saw a black limo driving down the street with its lights off, which reminding her of the pimps in her former life.  Triggered by all sorts of fears and memories, Annie would scream and throw things.  An apparently innocent TV show might remind her of evenings when she and her pimp would watch that same show together in earlier times.  One flashback would lead to another until her system was boiling over with intolerable panic and rage.

All the children in the program receive psychotherapy, but Annie did not find it particularly useful.  One thing that has made a big difference for her is Transcendental Meditation (TM), a technique that Lee has incorporated into her program in the last few years, with excellent results.

According to Annie, TM has reduced the impact of her flashbacks, has made her less angry, and less likely to her take out her distress on others.  As she puts it, “TM helps me calm down and center myself throughout the day, and focus on my schoolwork and tasks. It has also helped me trace back my emotions to when I was really young.  I realize that I couldn’t cry or tell people they had hurt my feelings.  I chose anger instead of hurt.”

The beneficial effects of TM on the PTSD symptoms of the Children of the Night have also been documented for traumatized veterans of combat, and are consistent with the known effects of TM in settling down fight-or-flight responses, which are exaggerated in people with PTSD.

Of Dr. Lee and Children of the Night, Annie says, “The program has done everything for me.  If not for the program, I would have died on the streets.”

Annie’s words are all the more poignant as there are so many other children who have not had the good fortune to stumble across Lee and her program. Keep your eye out for them and spare a thought for how we as a society can prevent the horrible problem of child prostitution and take care of those who have already fallen prey to it.

Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and author of “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation” (Tarcher-Penguin, 2011).

Also see: Children of the Night, movie director David Lynch expand work and Meditation Helps Homeless Children, and another Fox News Opinion piece by Dr. Rosenthal: Could Transcendental Meditation Help Veterans Suffering From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress by David Lynch and Norman E. Rosenthal

July 13, 2011
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL OPINION JULY 13, 2011
A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress
One study of soldiers showed a 50% reduction in symptoms after eight weeks of meditation.

By DAVID LYNCH and NORMAN E. ROSENTHAL

War wounds come in many forms. Some are obvious, such as scars, gashes and amputations. Others, the psychological ones, are less visible but equally devastating. The numbers in this second group are staggering: The military’s latest mental health survey of combat troops in Afghanistan found that 20%—one in five—suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

People with combat-related PTSD often suffer from periods of emotional numbness and depression that may coexist or alternate with intense anxiety and delusional thinking. Their days may be afflicted by flashbacks to traumatic situations. Their nights are often disrupted by sleeplessness and nightmares, from which they awake drenched in sweat as though back on the battlefield.

Yet most veterans with PTSD do not receive adequate treatment for various reasons, including fear of stigma, a dearth of effective treatments, and insufficient government resources. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, recently acknowledged that, “The therapies used for treatment of brain injuries lag behind the advanced medical science employed for treating mechanical injuries.”

Clearly, there is a need for new, creative approaches: Transcendental Meditation, better known as TM, is a promising candidate. An ancient Vedic technique developed in India, TM was brought to the West in the late 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It involves sitting comfortably with eyes closed for 20 minutes twice a day while thinking a mantra. It does not require adherence to any religious belief system or ritual practices. Yet to date there are over 340 peer-reviewed papers describing the beneficial effects of TM on the mind and body.

lynch

The David Lynch Foundation recently hosted an event to help raise funds to teach TM to our wounded warriors returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We heard from veterans of three wars: Jerry Yellin, a fighter pilot in World War II who flew 19 missions over Japan; Dan Burks, who served in Vietnam; and David George, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Despite differences in age and wartime experiences, these men had two things in common: All suffered terribly from PTSD, and all experienced tremendous relief from TM. Life became once again peaceful and even joyful for them.

What was clear from these men’s stories was how great a toll their symptoms took on their families, as well as on themselves. In a poignant video, Mr. George’s mother described the transformation of her son from a courteous young man into a hard-drinking, depressed and deeply disturbed veteran, who she feared would take his own life or someone else’s.

All that changed when Mr. George began to meditate on a regular basis. According to Ms. George, TM saved her son’s life.

In a study of Vietnam vets conducted by James S. Brooks and Thomas Scarano and published in the Journal of Counseling and Development in November 1985, TM outperformed the conventional psychotherapy of the day. More recently, a pilot study of five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans published in the June 2011 issue of Military Medicine showed a 50% reduction in PTSD symptoms after just eight weeks of practicing TM.

There is a scientific basis for the observed benefits of TM for combat-related PTSD. In several studies, TM has been shown to buffer fight-or-flight responses, which are thought to be overactive in people with PTSD, as evidenced by their hypervigilance, anxiety and exaggerated startle responses.

In addition, TM has been found to reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes—other conditions in which an overactive fight-or-flight response may play a role. In a similar manner, TM may modulate nervous system responses, thereby allowing affected veterans to relax and leave behind the traumas of war.

Regardless of how TM helps, the mounting evidence leads to one conclusion: If a simple, low-cost technique like TM can substantially alleviate the suffering of even some of the thousands of veterans afflicted with PTSD, how can we afford not to give it a try?

Mr. Lynch is a filmmaker and the founder of the David Lynch Foundation. Dr. Rosenthal is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and the author of “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation” (Tarcher-Penguin, 2011).

Photo credit: Associated Press
Link to article: http://on.wsj.com/rg8tYC

WSJ: LETTERS: VA Meditating on Good Therapies, July 22, 2011

In “A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress” (op-ed, July 13) David Lynch and Norman E. Rosenthal pose a challenge for the federal agency entrusted with caring for our nation’s 23 million veterans: “If a simple, low-cost technique like TM can substantially alleviate the suffering of even some of the thousands of veterans afflicted with PTSD, how can we afford not to give it a try?” In fact, Transcendental Meditation has received substantial attention at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. Indeed, meditation and other forms of complementary and alternative medicine are already used at VA to help veterans suffering from PTSD. We have embarked on a series of clinical investigations to evaluate all forms of meditation, TM among them, in order to determine whether this promising technique can produce results consistently for our patients, and which kind of meditation, from among several practiced widely today, would be most helpful to them. VA is beginning demonstration projects across the country in different care settings. We are looking for a simple, natural, culturally neutral and repeatable technique that can augment existing PTSD treatments. These studies require us to be open to new techniques for prevention and treatment, as well as structured in our approach to determining their value and efficacy. The studies already conducted, and those currently underway, are listed at http://tinyurl.com/3gx74o3.

The promising personal experiences mentioned in the article and the dedicated efforts of our VA, DoD and NIH team offer us all hope for finding more effective treatments for PTSD. We can’t afford not to.

W. Scott Gould

Deputy Secretary

DVA

Robert A. Petzel, M.D.

Under Secretary for Health

DVA

Washington


%d bloggers like this: