What is PTSD? Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that develops in some people after experiencing dreadful and frightening events – also known as trauma. This could be a personal assault, a serious accident, a natural disaster, or war.
It can happen to anyone – of all nationalities and cultures, and at any age. An estimated one in 11 people will actually be diagnosed with PTSD during their lifetime, with women being twice as likely as men to have PTSD. The number of undiagnosed cases would probably make that number much higher, as many people learn coping mechanisms and repress the symptoms.
The Causes of PTSD
What causes PTSD? It remains unclear why some people get PTSD following events that involve threatened or actual death, or serious injury. PTSD causes may also include:
- A family history of anxiety and depression – linked to inherited mental health risks
- Temperament – inherited features of your personality can play a part
- Stress responses – how your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones released into your body
- Early childhood traumas – such as abuse and neglect
- A history of mental illness – this includes substance abuse
- In early years of life, even minor events can cause trauma as children are very vulnerable and sensitive, and the effects can last lifelong if not worked upon
The Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD symptoms can vary in severity, last longer than a month, and often persist for years. Symptoms may appear early on, or later, causing immense distress and problems with functioning. Symptoms are categorised as:
Re-experiencing – flashbacks reliving the traumatic events time and time again with physical signs of sweating and an increased heart rate. Frightening thoughts and bad dreams are included as they can be triggered by words, objects, and situations
Avoidance – these characteristics of staying away from certain places and avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the events can cause changes in everyday routine and habits
Reactivity – feelings of tension, having difficulty sleeping. and being easily startled make it difficult to focus, eat, and sleep properly
Cognition and mood – distorted guilty feelings alongside negative thoughts and difficulty in remembering can cause a loss of interest in activities that should be enjoyable. This may result in alienation and detachment from family and friends
Patterns of behavior – all the above can be summarized into one thing. PTSD causes the victim to develop a pattern of behavior that persists based on a “conclusion” or “decision” made during the traumatic event. This conclusion becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy which causes repeated trauma for the person with PTSD.
The Types of PTSD
Types of PTSD that take years to develop are known as delayed-onset PTSD and is diagnosed in less than 20% of cases. The symptoms are the same as those mentioned above.
Secondary trauma can be developed if you’ve been supporting someone who has experienced severe trauma – making the impact of the event distressing to you
Acute stress disorder is characterised by panic reactions, mental confusion, severe insomnia, and being unable to manage basic self-care
Uncomplicated PTSD involves the persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event, emotional numbing, and symptoms of increased arousal
Comorbid PTSD is normally associated with depression, alcohol or substance abuse, and panic and other anxiety disorders
Complex PTSD has similar symptoms to PTSD but has increased after-experience signs such as:
- Avoidance of friendships and relationships
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Difficulty in controlling emotions
- Suicidal thoughts
The Treatments for PTSD
Treatments for PTSD include immediate support, medication, and psychotherapy. Depending on the PTSD diagnosis good responses may be achieved with group and cognitive-behavioural approaches. Carefully managed treatment will be given for psychiatric and addiction problems.
Some people may turn to religion and have great faith in the help and support of others. And now there’s preliminary evidence that the visionary element in the sacred brew Ayahuasca can help people with PTSD.
Ayahuasca and PTSD
Can ayahuasca help for PTSD? The answer to this question is yes in certain conditions such as a supportive setting with experienced facilitators. Research has shown that it can help with a wide range of mental pathologies such as addiction, depression, and other PTSD symptoms. Recent studies have shown that after six months following the drinking of Ayahuasca at just three ayahuasca ceremonies in one week, depression scores dropped by an average of 52%.
Ayahuasca is not a magic pill, just drinking ayahuasca will not fix all your problems. It is a deep spiritual journey that helps you to see yourself with greater clarity. After this experience, if you go back and continue with the same habits and patterns, you will very likely experience the same life issues you had prior to drinking ayahuasca.
The term entheogenic means something that induces an experience of god within. It leads to experiences of spiritual enlightenment and conscious-modifying journeys into different realms. When this is done with proper support where a trained facilitator can help you to integrate the insights to apply in your everyday life, the effects can be long lasting, if you commit and follow through with the changes that are experienced during the ayahuasca retreat.
Ayahuasca alkaloids enhance the processes used in memory reconsolidation and fear extinction. This fear response triggered by the memory can be extinguished or reprogrammed with the proper techniques.
Traumatic memory plays a huge role in the development of PTSD and how those memories get processed and dealt with are a key factor in modern therapies. While individuals are under the influence of ayahuasca, emotional processing is highly activated. The part of the brain area linked to PTSD is the amygdala, and when this gets activated, traumatic memories can be relived and addressed. During an ayahuasca journey, this is accompanied by higher perspectives and lessons that help to integrate the experience.
Ayahuasca and the Benefits for People With PTSD
A spiritual transformation is much deeper than dealing with PTSD. While PTSD may be a symptom on the surface that leads a person to an ayahuasca retreat, the benefits gained can be much deeper when done in the proper setting and with the right mindset.
The Spirit Vine center in Brazil has ayahuasca retreats for spiritual development designed to guide individuals to find an inner balance. The environment is clean, harmonious, and safe. And the accommodation in the beautiful Atlantic rainforest provides a peaceful sanctuary.
The ancient shamanic brew ayahuasca is prepared from two sacred plants – grown and harvested sustainably on the land. There are no additives in the chacruna plant and caapi vine mix. The ayahuasca ceremonies take place overnight as in the traditional practice – with music that brings awareness and spiritual awakening of the traumas that need to be faced.
Preparing for an Ayahuasca Ceremony
One of the key factors are the workshops for spiritual development that are conducted before the ceremony. These workshops are facilitated by Silvia Polivoy, the organizer of the retreat. She is a licensed psychologist with decades of experience in psychotherapy, modified states of consciousness, shamanism, and many other modalities. She now works in the spiritual realm, and her workshops are designed to teach tools and techniques to participants so they can use their own power and resources to find the source of their blockages.
The workshops teach participants to find solutions to patterns that are no longer productive in their life, thus empowering them to continue working on themselves even after the retreat. These tools and techniques can also be used during the ayahuasca ceremony to navigate the experience and transform blockages thus helping to develop a deeper connection with your higher self. Group sharing is an intricate part of the experience which result in even deeper understandings.
As ayahuasca has purgative properties it helps cleanse at many different levels. Following the guidelines to help prepare for the ayahuasca ceremonies, the deepest levels of emotional, psychological, and spiritual planes can be reached.
The spirit of ayahuasca shines a light on the root causes of PTSD behaviour, removing blockages, and providing extra strength from the reconnection of the power within to the source and lost parts of ourselves.