The Physiological Dimension of PTSD

Physiological Dimension of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. While it is commonly considered a psychological disorder, PTSD can also have significant physiological effects on the body. In this article, we will explore the physiological dimension of PTSD and how therapy can help manage its effects.

Physiological Reactions to PTSD / Trauma

Trauma is a complex experience that can profoundly affect an individual’s mental and physical well-being. When someone experiences a traumatic event, their body can have a physiological reaction that can manifest in various ways. These reactions can be immediate, such as increased heart rate and breathing, or long-lasting, such as chronic pain and illness. This article will explore the physiological reactions to PTSD and trauma and how they can impact an individual’s life. We’ll also look at managing these reactions and promoting healing and recovery.

The Stress Response

The stress response is the body’s natural reaction to a perceived threat. It involves the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body for the fight-or-flight response. In individuals with PTSD, the stress response can become overactive, leading to an increased release of stress hormones and contributing to the disorder’s characteristics.

The Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates involuntary functions such as heart rate and breathing. Individuals with PTSD may experience an overactive ANS, leading to concerns such as hypervigilance, increased startle response, and difficulty sleeping.

The HPA Axis

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a complex system that regulates the body’s stress response. In individuals with PTSD, the HPA axis can become dysregulated, leading to an overactive stress response and increased release of stress hormones. This dysregulation can contribute to the characteristics of PTSD, including anxiety, depression, and irritability.


PTSD has also been linked to chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection, but it can contribute to various health problems when it becomes chronic. Studies have shown that individuals with PTSD have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their blood, which can increase the risk of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.

Counselling And Trauma: Physiological Dimension Of Ptsd

Counselling Approaches For PTSD / Trauma

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD can cause intense, frightening and often debilitating issues such as flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety. Trauma is defined as an event that is outside the range of normal human experience, which involves actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence. PTSD can develop after experiencing various traumatic events such as combat exposure, natural disasters, accidents, sexual violence, or abuse.

Counselling approaches for PTSD and trauma have been developed over the past several decades. These approaches can help individuals who are suffering from PTSD and trauma to manage their concerns, overcome their traumatic experiences, and rebuild their lives. In this article, we will explore some counselling approaches that work well for PTSD and trauma.

Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioural therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treating PTSD and trauma. This approach aims to help individuals understand and manage their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours related to their trauma. TF-CBT is typically delivered over 12-16 sessions and involves several methods. Exposure therapy, for example, is a technique that involves gradually exposing the individual to the memories and feelings associated with their trauma.

The therapist helps the individual develop supportive methods and learn to tolerate and manage these intense feelings. Cognitive restructuring is another technique used in TF-CBT, which involves challenging negative and unhelpful thoughts related to the trauma. This technique aims to help the individual to replace these negative thoughts with more accurate and realistic ones. Other processes used in TF-CBT include relaxation exercises and the development of safety plans to help individuals cope with any future triggers or trauma-related experiences.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another successful counselling approach for PTSD and trauma. EMDR involves eye movements or other rhythmic stimulation while the individual recalls the traumatic event. This technique has been found to reduce the emotional intensity of traumatic memories and to help individuals process and integrate these experiences into their lives. EMDR typically involves 8-12 sessions and has been found to reduce characteristics of PTSD and trauma.

Mindfulness-based therapies have also been used in treating PTSD and trauma. These approaches aim to help individuals develop greater awareness and acceptance of their thoughts and emotions related to the trauma. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are two examples of mindfulness-based therapies used to treat PTSD and trauma. MBSR involves mindfulness meditation and yoga to help individuals develop greater awareness of their thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. MBCT combines mindfulness meditation with cognitive-behavioural therapies to help individuals learn to relate to their thoughts and emotions more constructively.

Psychodynamic therapy is another approach to treating PTSD and trauma that has shown promise. Psychodynamic therapy involves exploring the unconscious thoughts and emotions contributing to the individual’s experience of PTSD and trauma. This approach can be particularly helpful for individuals who have experienced trauma earlier, such as childhood abuse or neglect.

Group therapy is another counselling approach that can successfully treat PTSD and trauma. Group therapy allows individuals to share their experiences with others who have gone through similar traumas, which can help to reduce feelings of isolation and provide a sense of support and understanding. Group therapy can also provide opportunities for individuals to practice social skills and build relationships in a safe and supportive environment.

Counselling approaches for PTSD and trauma have been developed over the past several decades. These approaches can help individuals manage their concerns, overcome traumatic experiences, and rebuild their lives. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioural therapy (TF-CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), mindfulness-based therapies, psychodynamic therapy, and group therapy are all counselling approaches that have been found to work well for PTSD and trauma. It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating PTSD and trauma, and the best approach will depend on the individual’s unique needs and circumstances.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD or trauma, seeking help from a qualified and experienced therapist is important. A therapist can help you identify the most appropriate counselling approach and provide support and guidance throughout the healing process. With the right support and approach, it is possible to overcome the effects of trauma and lead a fulfilling life.

PTSD can have significant physiological effects on the body, including dysregulation of the stress response, the autonomic nervous system, the HPA axis, and chronic inflammation. Therapy can be a successful way to manage these effects and reduce characteristics. Exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction are all evidence-based approaches to help individuals with PTSD develop supportive methods and improve their overall well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, consider contacting a mental health professional for help.


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