People affected by post-traumatic stress disorder become susceptible to reliving trauma exposure when emotions associated with that trauma lose the factual context that places them in a rational framework, a new study by a team of Spanish and Brazilian researchers has found. Scientists have long sought to understand why and how this unwanted memory recurrence occurs in people living with PTSD. In a study published in December 2014 in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Spanish and Brazilian researchers looked at the role that emotional disconnection plays in making a person affected by PTSD susceptible to reliving trauma exposure. These researchers concluded that the disconnected processing of fearful emotions might help explain this classic PTSD symptom. Fortunately, with the help of PTSD memory treatment, many people can find relief.
At the PTSD treatment program at Recovery Ranch TN, we understand that the key to successful PTSD memory treatment is to help our clients process and understand their memories healthily. To learn more about our program, please call us today at 1.844.876.7680.
PTSD and Unwanted Reliving of Trauma
A person with PTSD has symptoms that indicate a continuing or delayed severe reaction to exposure to a highly dangerous or life-threatening situation. These symptoms can only be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder if they exert their impact 30 days or longer after the initial trauma exposure. People who develop diagnosable problems prior to reaching this 30-day threshold have a condition called acute stress disorder or ASD.
PTSD symptoms fall into four reasonably broad categories. These categories include:
- A compelling desire to avoid reminders of the trauma
- Hyperarousal, or an inability to turn off the body’s “fight-or-flight” response
- A damaging increase in negative emotional states or a negative worldview
- The unwanted reliving of the source of emotional trauma
The unwanted reliving of emotional trauma can take the form of waking episodes called flashbacks. They can also take the form of nightmares. Whatever its form, such a reliving can provoke the same intense, potentially debilitating mental and psychological responses the individual felt during the originating event or situation. As a rule, an affected person can’t predict when they will experience flashbacks or nightmares. However, these symptoms often arise after an individual faces reminders of the originating trauma. Doctors sometimes encounter great difficulty helping their PTSD patients overcome the tendency to relive traumatic emotional responses involuntarily.
All human beings have two forms of long-term memory: explicit and implicit memory. Explicit memories contain the details of a previous experience, such as what happened or where things happened. These memories allow a person to speak about their memories in a somewhat objective, factual manner. Implicit memories don’t have this type of detailed content. Instead, they contain the emotional responses associated with a past event or situation. Emotional disconnection or dissociation occurs when a memory’s factual content no longer links up with the psychological or emotional content. Such a disconnection is not uncommon, although its impact on mental well-being can vary broadly.
Does It Help Explain PTSD?
In the study published in the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, researchers from three Spanish institutions and one Brazilian institution explored the potential link between emotional disconnection and PTSD with the help of 86 adults. These participants faced situations designed to evoke a fearful response.
The researchers used two testing procedures to track the connection between this fear exposure’s explicit and implicit memories. The first procedure measured the explicit ability to identify words related to fear-inducing situations. Then, the second procedure used a galvanic skin response test to measure implicit memory of these situations.
The researchers conducted these tests half an hour after the trauma exposure; they also performed the same tests two weeks later. After reviewing the results of the testing, the researchers concluded that the study participants exhibited a strong ability to recall their implicit, emotional responses to trauma exposure. They showed these signs half an hour after this exposure and two weeks later. However, they also concluded that the participants rapidly lost their ability to accurately and explicitly recall the specific details of their traumatic experiences.
The study’s authors believe their results indicate that the implicit, emotional content of a traumatic event or situation can quickly become disconnected or dissociated from the explicit, factual memory of a traumatic event or situation. They also believe that the presence of this disconnection may help explain why people affected by post-traumatic stress disorder commonly experience an involuntary reliving of their emotional trauma exposure.
Find PTSD Memory Treatment at Recovery Ranch TN
Recovery Ranch TN is a trauma and PTSD treatment center nestled in the rolling hills of Tennessee. We offer a unique approach to healing that helps you recover from your trauma. You can also overcome the challenges that life throws your way. Our treatment program includes:
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Family therapy
- Equine-assisted therapy
With the help of our PTSD memory treatment options, you can work through your memories in a safe and supportive environment. Call us at 1.844.876.7680 today to learn more about our program and how we can help you heal.