Perceiving the World Through Altered Eyes: Understanding How PTSD Changes the Sufferer’s View from a Polyvagal Perspective

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex condition that not only affects the mind but also alters the way individuals view the world around them. By examining PTSD through the lens of the polyvagal theory, we can gain insights into the body’s autonomic nervous system responses to trauma, shedding light on the altered perception experienced by sufferers. In this blog post, we will delve into how PTSD changes the way individuals view the world, drawing from the principles of the polyvagal theory and its implications for healing and recovery.

  1. Understanding the Polyvagal Theory
  • Introducing the Polyvagal theory and its relevance to PTSD
  • Exploring the three states of the autonomic nervous system: ventral vagal, sympathetic, and dorsal vagal
  • How trauma disrupts the body’s autonomic balance
  1. The Impact of Trauma on Perception
  • Examining the altered perceptions experienced by individuals with PTSD
  • Hyperarousal and hypervigilance: A heightened sense of threat and danger
  • The disconnect between actual and perceived levels of safety
  1. Altered Social Engagement and Connection
  • The role of the ventral vagal system in social engagement
  • How trauma affects the ability to trust and connect with others
  • Repercussions for relationships and social interactions
  1. Perceptual Filters and Cognitive Processing
  • How trauma shapes the cognitive processing of information
  • Heightened reactivity and distorted perceptions of reality
  • The impact on memory, attention, and decision-making
  1. Healing and Recovery from a Polyvagal Perspective
  • The importance of creating a safe environment for trauma survivors
  • Techniques for regulating the autonomic nervous system and promoting safety
  • Integrating the principles of the polyvagal theory into therapeutic interventions
  1. Cultivating Resilience and Restoring Perception
  • Building self-awareness and self-regulation skills
  • Engaging in trauma-informed therapies to reframe perceptions
  • Rediscovering a sense of safety, connection, and trust in the world

Conclusion: Through the lens of the polyvagal theory, we can begin to grasp how PTSD alters the way individuals perceive the world. Understanding the impact of trauma on the autonomic nervous system provides valuable insights into the challenges faced by sufferers and paves the way for trauma-informed interventions that promote healing and recovery. By recognizing the altered perceptions of those with PTSD, we can foster empathy, support, and provide effective strategies for restoring a sense of safety, connection, and trust in the world.

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What is Anxiety?

“All anxiety derives from intolerance for uncertainty, which leads to two coping mechanisms: worry or avoidance. Worry is doubt about future events. Avoidance is distracting ourselves from the unpleasant sensation of anxiety. Anxiety can be both a temporary state and a personality trait. Generalized anxiety disorder is excessive worry about everyday issues.”

Brene Brown Atlas of the Heart

Experiencing the occasional feeling of anxiety is a very normal part of life. Life is often uncertain and if we think in certain ways we can feel anxious which will then cause us to behave in ways we wouldn’t if we were not feeling anxious.See the image below for an example of this.

Some people with anxiety disorders  experience excessive, intense and persistent worry, fear and even dread about everyday situations. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it interferes with everyday life. Anxiety disorders include repeated episodes of feeling intense anxiety, worry and fear and can turn into feelings of dread and terror that reach a peak within minutes of the initial cause (panic attacks). The cause can often be a mystery. Some people can pick the event, or thought that started the anxiety developing but often anxiety becomes a false alarm that triggers before we are even aware there is anything wrong.

Feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily living and can be difficult to control. We often experience a state of fight, flight or freeze which can feel out of proportion to the actual danger and can last a long time.

Anxiety may cause you to avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings. Anxiety symptoms may start in childhood or teen years and continue into adulthood.

Examples of anxiety disorders include:

Generalized anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)

Specific phobias

Separation anxiety disorder.

People often have more than one anxiety disorder. Anxiety can result from a medical condition such as hyperthyroidism that may need treatment.


Symptoms of Anxiety

Some Holistic Treatment Options for Anxiety

Holistic treatments for anxiety may include interventions that address the physical, emotional, and social aspects of the condition. These treatments may include:

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of therapy helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety.

  2. Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions and learn to respond to them in a more balanced way.

  3. Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce anxiety symptoms by releasing endorphins, which are chemicals that improve mood.

  4. Nutrition: A healthy diet can help support overall well-being, including mental health.

  5. Social support: Connecting with others, whether through therapy, support groups, or social activities, can help individuals feel less isolated and improve their overall well-being.

  6. Somatic Exercises: Somatic exercises are activities that can help reduce anxiety by focusing on the body and the sensations it experiences. Activities may include mindfulness movement, Progressive muscle relaxation, yoga or tai chi or breathing exercises.

It is important to speak with a mental health professional or qualified instructor before starting somatic work. They can help you determine the best exercises for your individual needs and guide you in proper form and technique.

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