PTSD: Can the Nightmare End?
Many horror stories, ancient versions or 21st century versions, often involve nightmares. They come to life and cause madness and eat our lives until there is nothing left but an empty shell of a human being.
Among the worst is the post-traumatic stress disorder nightmare. As recently as WWII when General Patton slapped a soldier for “battle fatigue” this was misunderstood. Now, society is beginning to piece together the complexity of the problem.
Most people know this simple image as an “IQ curve” or a performance curve. In fact, every cell and every hormone in the brain has one of these little curves associated with it. IQ can be high or low, but so can adrenaline, religious feelings, psychopathic behavior, sex drive, and you name it. Thousnads of these little curves conflicting with and reinforcing our behavior. Influence one, and another one can go askew. (“Flowers for Algernon’, was a Daniel Keyes story that discussed what happens when a very low IQ gets his IQ boosted past genius level. Highly recomended.)
NOw, therapists think they have a handle on what causes PTSD nightmares to repeat over and over. In ordinary REM sleep, key hormones turn off so that the brain can randomly access and assess events that are pressing upon the memory centers. We dream, we remember, but there is no or little emotion associated. Sometimes this does not work well, and we get mild nightmares, or psychopompic dreams.
In PTSD the hormone does not turn off. An NPR report makes this pretty clear (Click here). We are not particularly advocates of pills and drugs here at Misky, but a simple little pill called prazosin which costs less than a pack of gum turns off adrenaline temporarily. Almost immediate relief comes in some patients.
That pesky little bell curve can work for us or against us. This may be the first in many small steps to bring back mental health to many millions. Horror makes fun reading, but our goal should be to eliminate it from our society. Horror fiction assists us in understanding and processing the horrific events in our collective lives. Support your favorite horror writer, and if you have a few shekels left over, or a little spare time, help a local and trusted charity.