“I heard PTSD is tied to brain damage. Does that mean it’s forever?”
For many years science suggested that once the brain reached maturity, it stopped growing and replacing cells. If a person suffered brain damage, it was thought to be permanent.
This perspective has changed. We now know neurons in the brain form new connections throughout our lives. New learning is both facilitated and stored by way of such rewiring.
Following brain injury, new connections have been found to make up for certain lost abilities. Recent research has even gone so far as to show evidence of this in a part of the brain controlling emotions. All good news for those with PTSD!
This neuroplasticity, as it is called, benefits anybody seeking good brain health. You can encourage the brain’s ability to adjust at any age, regardless of whether you have PTSD. Thus far three practices have been identified as useful:
- Aerobic exercise
- Novel experiences, learning new skills
- Mindfulness meditation
This helps explain why talk therapies provide benefit for PTSD. Talk therapy requires both thinking about and learning new perspectives. It often includes mindfulness meditation, and recommends exercise as well.
Anybody can pursue aerobic exercise, novel experience, and meditation practice and reap their benefits, regardless of whether they are part of a course of therapy.
And yes, there is hope for PTSD.
For more information about PTSD, see “What Can I Do If I Think I have PTSD?”, provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs/National Center for PTSD.