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The Health-Care Survivor's Library
Essential Information Supporting Naturally Sustainable Good Health
Thank You For Your Service — You Are The Best Of Us
Please Join me in thanking the wonderful people who work within the UK’s National Health Service. The NHS marks its 70th Anniversary today: 5th July 1948 — 5th July 2018. Please add your personal thanks, by commenting here, sharing this post, and using the hashtag: #ThankYouNHS70.
Trauma is any negative life event in which the brain perceives a real sense of danger, horror, and helplessness. PTSD occurs when people are directly exposed to, repeatedly exposed to, or witness horrific events, such as death, abuse, domestic violence, or war. During these events, the body’s stress response kicks into overdrive. Studies show that women are more likely to experience sexual abuse as children, whereas men are more likely to experience physical assault or witness death.
A person’s PTSD symptoms may prove indiscernible to others. When people are reliving their trauma, they sometimes stare off into space as if they are watching a movie. This is known as the “thousand-yard stare” and is typically the only observable symptom.
Prompted by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the brain sends alert signals to prepare the body to ward off danger. This survival instinct reaction is called the hyperarousal acute stress response, or, as it’s more commonly called, the fight-flight-freeze response. This reduces overall brain functioning. PTSD is considered an anxiety-based disorder with symptoms that fall into in four categories: intrusive thoughts, like dreams and flashbacks; avoiding reminders of the trauma; negative thoughts and feelings of fear, anger, horror, shame and guilt; and “reactive” symptoms like irritability, self-destructive behaviours, physical outbursts, and difficulty sleeping. Not everyone with PTSD has all of these symptoms, and they tend to vary in form and intensity from person to person. Sometimes symptoms disappear completely and resurface years later when the traumatic event is triggered again by another stimulus. When the symptoms last for more than a month, they are chronic, and diagnosed as PTSD.
The adaptability of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis plays a key role in how our stress response engages when we’re exposed to a traumatic event. When the hypothalamus sends a message to the ANS, the bloodstream is flooded with several different stress hormones, such as cortisol. These hormones also release extremely high levels of natural opiates, which temporarily mask pain. A person may feel as if the event is occurring right now—their brains re-experience the traumatic event through surges of energy and intrusive thoughts. Severe anxiety can result as they experience a heightened sensitivity to potential dangers. Researchers found that people with PTSD continue to produce higher levels of stress hormones after the trauma is over, which may explain why emotional symptoms linger after the threat is gone.
Triggers are physical and emotional stimuli randomly associated with the traumatic experience. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch can act as triggers that cause a memory to light up the brain. Other examples of triggers include specific people, crowded places, songs, or emotions. When triggers are re-experienced, the brain sends signals to the body to prepare to defend itself against more trauma.
Because PTSD is repetitive and multilayered, triggers may cause false alarms. Some triggers are obvious to the person experiencing them and easy to understand. Others are buried in the subconscious, making it difficult to determine why the brain is overreacting. The triggered experience often causes depersonalisation, which is when someone feels as if the memory is an out-of-body experience, or de-realisation, when the experience feels unreal or distorted. When our warning signs are tripped, the ANS re-engages our brain’s hypothalamus and the process starts over again.
People with PTSD tend to isolate themselves and can suffer from depression. In response, they avoid situations, events, and people that remind them of their trauma. Other mental illnesses can occur after experiencing a traumatic episode, such as substance abuse or panic attacks. Sufferers can be seen as “unable to cope.” Because of this, they may feel invalidated, ignored, and misunderstood.
PTSD is also known as the unseen or hidden wound. Those with PTSD say that they feel as if a pause button has been pushed on their life while the rest of the world moves on.
With social support, understanding, and empathy, people with PTSD can embrace their incredible personal strength, resiliency, and balance that they feel have been lost. Self-care, medication, mindfulness, and psychotherapy can help PTSD sufferers regain their self-esteem. Other exposure-based treatments, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), group therapy, and psychotropic medication also help those experiencing PTSD.
PTSD can happen to anyone and is not a sign of weakness. With early detection, PTSD is significantly easier to treat. Know the warning signs of stress and PTSD before they feel out of control.
The curious case of a woman who can smell Parkinson’s reminds us our noses are our first defense against illness.
Joy Milne (right) was able to correctly identify people with Parkinson’s disease based solely on their smell.
I’m sick, and I don’t smell right. I don’t mean that my nose isn’t working—though this cold has me stuffed up. Instead, my own body odor seems somehow different, sour and unfamiliar.
I’m far from the first person to notice this nasty side effect. Scientists have found that dozens of illnesses have a particular smell: Diabetes can make your urine smell like rotten apples, and typhoid turns body odor into the smell of baked bread. Worse, yellow fever apparently makes your skin smell like a butcher’s shop, if you can imagine that.
It’s curious, but not merely a curiosity; some scientists think that if we could identify particular sick smells, we might sniff out diseases that are otherwise hard to detect early, like cancers or brain injuries. Recently, a Scottish woman became famous for her ability to tell whether someone has Parkinson’s disease by smelling their T-shirts.
We marvel at such a skill, but anyone with working olfactory senses could probably learn to recognize various “sick smells.” Humans are very good at detecting illness, says Valerie Curtis, a public health researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and author of the book Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat on the science of disgust.
“Signs of sickness are some of the things people find most disgusting,” Curtis says—think mucus, vomit, or pus. Disgust is our way of avoiding things that could harm us, so “it simply makes good evolutionary sense that we use our noses to notice illness.” (Of course, people sometimes like stinky things, too.)
But why would sick people smell differently in the first place? The key is that our bodies are constantly launching volatile substances into the air. They’re carried in our breath and literally ooze from every pore, and they can vary depending on age, diet, and whether an illness has thrown off some cog in our metabolic machinery. Microbes living in our guts and on our skin also contribute to our signature scent, by breaking down our metabolic by-products into smellier ones.
Basically, you’re a walking factory of smells. And if you start paying attention to them, you might notice when something’s off.
The Hippocratic oath is a 2,500-year-old pledge doctors take outlining the professional duties and ethical principles the profession holds sacred. The first modern version of the Hippocratic oath was adopted in 1948. The version released in November 2017, by the World Medical Association in Chicago took two years to finalise and is the ancient text’s first ever major update. A new name was proposed as well: “The Physician’s Pledge.”
The Physician’s Pledge
As a member of the medical profession:
I solemnly pledge to dedicate my life to the service of humanity;
The health and well-being of my patient will be my first consideration;
I will respect the autonomy and dignity of my patient;
I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;
I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity and in accordance with good medical practice;
I will foster the honour and noble traditions of the medical profession;
I will give to my teachers, colleagues, and students the respect and gratitude that is their due;
I will share my medical knowledge for the benefit of the patient and the advancement of healthcare;
I will attend to my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard;
I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
I make these promises solemnly, freely, and upon my honour.
The World Medical Association Declaration Of Geneva, 2017