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PTSD – New Science and Diagnosis

PTSD – New Science and Diagnosis

Researchers have developed new ways of utilising existing technology!

Did you know that MEG (Magnetoencephalography) scanners can give a 90% predictability for a PTSD diagnosis?

The science is coming!  

This technology will eventually be used to diagnose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

MEG scanners can also give a 100% predictability of concussion/mTBI, finally bringing objective evidence for this vastly underestimated and misunderstood outcome of head injury and concussion. 

While MEG diagnosis is rarely used clinically and is not mainstream yet, it holds exciting promise.

Despite general beliefs about PTSD, it is known clinically NOT to be a common consequence of brain injury.

 Of those who suffer trauma, only a minority develop PTSD. Many people self-diagnose and do so incorrectly. It is more common for people to suffer Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) which do not clinically qualify a diagnosis of PTSD.

It can be counter-productive for people to claim they have PTSD when they have not received a clinical diagnosis, because the inference can undermine the understanding of the effects experienced by people who do have PTSD, notably those with blast and military injuries.

PTSD is a disorder of the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system within the primitive brain. Essentially the fight/flight and automatic centre of the brain; the amygdala takes no notice of the calming effects of the hippocampus which is involved in the formation of new memories.

Links between the pre-frontal cortex and amygdala also appear to be lost in PTSD causing severe emotional and anxiety responses.

Clinical diagnosis is crucial because incorrect or ineffective treatments extend suffering.

Predictive vulnerability can be influenced by past psychiatric history

Despite this finding, epigenetic influences and past mood or mental health disorders do not always predict likely outcomes of trauma. Although people with pre-morbid conditions can be at higher risk.

Further research has also shown that Post Traumatic Amnesia (PTA) is unlikely to be an event associated with PTSD.

Researchers have been able to show that there are clinical differences in the brain waves of people who have mood disorders, PTSD and mTBI which, in the future, will help to improve clinical diagnosis and will better direct treatments.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) usually resolve in 3 months for 70/80% of people (1)

Fear responses to trauma are very real and for those who have suffered a concussion/mTBI, these can sometimes resolve without professional support or treatment.  Those who are suffering for longer should seek treatment and speak to their doctor.

The clinical criteria used for the diagnosis of PTSD and fear-related post-trauma responses can overlap in some areas, as can the symptoms. These overlaps can be confusing and often lead to people incorrectly believing they have PTSD.

PTSD can only ever be diagnosed by a specialist.

PTSD is categorised as a trauma and stress-related disorder

“The criteria for PTSD include specifying qualifying experiences of traumatic events, four sets of symptom clusters, and two subtypes. There are also requirements around the duration of symptoms, how it impacts one’s functioning and ruling out substance use and medical illnesses.” Sara Staggs, LICSW, MSW, MPH

Always seek a clinical diagnosis of PTSD

It is essential that people receive an accurate diagnosis of mood-related disorders following trauma. The symptoms of PTSD do not always show up immediately.

Studies have shown that military personnel and veterans may not seek help and may initially believe they are strong enough to overcome symptoms on their own. It is crucial that you seek help as early on as possible. There are treatments that can help; this really is a case of ‘sooner the better’ as symptoms can spiral and become out-of-control sometimes leading to self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

If you have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) talk to your diagnostician about things you can do to help yourself.

Other than prescribed treatments, such as, pharmaceuticals and cognitive behavioural therapy, many people benefit from supplements, improvements in diet, eliminating recreational toxins, practicing mindfulness, and gentle exercises such as yoga or tai-chi.


(1) Re: Cognition Health, mTBI & PTSD conference 2019. Dr JH Bourke, Dr BT Dunkley

PsychCentral – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms

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