Understanding PTSD


MOOSIC, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Two years ago this week, a terrorist carried out a deadly suicide bombing at Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom — killing nearly two dozen people and injuring nearly 140 others. It happened at a concert by singer Ariana Grande — who recently shared her struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a valuable lesson for so many of us as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains.

What I showed Psychiatrist Matthew Berger was an Instagram post by singer Ariana Grande of her brain captioned ‘Hilarious and Terrifying. My Brain. Not a joke’. “What she was trying to convey is that this is a functional, neurobiological component. That there’s something actually brain changes that are occurring with PTSD,” said Dr. Berger.

A suicide bomber targeted an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017 at Manchester Arena. Two years later, the physical effects of PTSD are still evident on Grande’s brain. Dr. Berger said, “There are some great PET scans and what they call functional MRI’s where you can look at certain areas of the brain — particularly broca’s area and amygdala which in a PTSD brain which in a PTSD brain reacts very differently from a regular brain.”

What happened in Manchester triggered what’s called acute PTSD but the disorder is not exclusive to a singular, traumatic event. There’s what’s called chronic PTSD. Dr. Berger described it as, “Low grade, long term stress. That’s usually from your childhood. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse unfortunately. Trauma at home, you know, an abused spouse.”
Functional MRI’s and PET scans are still not considered a key measurement of PTSD which affects up to 44 million American adults. But the images could play a role in ongoing PTSD research. Dr. Berger explains, “They are trying to find either a genetic marker or a brain marker to figure out who gets it more frequently and who doesn’t.” 

Dr. Berger believes the vast majority of people with PTSD are not seeking help. By Ariana Grande sharing her struggle, it helps spread awareness about this mental disorder. “If you can’t get in with a mental health professional call your family doctor. But a therapist, a counselor.”

Dr. Berger says the most effective treatment for PTSD is a combination of medication like antidepressants and psychotherapy.

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