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What is PTSD?

The Science

what is ptsd and how does physical activity help?

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and regardless of what you heard on the news, it doesn't mean that everyone with PTSD has just returned from war. Though many veterans suffer from PTSD it can be caused by any traumatic event experienced by any individual. We work with both veterans and civilians who desire to control their symptoms of PTSD through physical activity and exercise.

 

How is PTSD diagnosed?

PTSD can be diagnosed by a licensed clinical psychologist or psychiatrist who bases their diagnosis on the DSM-V definition of PTSD. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms below after experiencing a traumatic event, please reach out to a psychologist or psychiatrist to open up lines of communication. 

The current definition, according to the DSM-V, for what constitutes PTSD includes:

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event:

    • Having flashbacks​

    • Nightmares

    • Intense and prolonged psychological distress

  • Avoidance​

    • Due to experiencing distressing memories, thoughts, feelings, and reminders of the traumatic event.

  • Negative Thoughts & Mood​

    • Persistent and distorted sense of blame of self or others​

    • Estrangement from others

    • Diminished interest in activities

    • Inability to remember key aspects of the event

  • Arousal issues​

    • Aggressive, reckless, self-destructive behavior.​

    • Sleep disturbance.

    • Hyper-vigilance

PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety disorders are very similar and have been shown to have positive benefits related to controlling and decreasing the severity of symptoms through the introduction of physical activity. Though exercise has been shown to provide multiple benefits relating to better sleep quality, increased intrinsic effects, reduced anxiety, increase in mood, decreased stress, increased sense of well-being, increased independence, increased sense of community, decreased symptoms of depression, and many more benefits, there is also evidence that coupling exercise with therapy (e.g. CBT, ACT, exposure therapy, etc.) shows the best overall results. We recommend that individuals wishing to take part in one of the Challenges who are already involved in a therapeutic approach should continue their therapy with the physical exercise as a supplement to their current approach. 

How does exercise help?

Research has shown that the long-term benefits of an aerobic-based exercise routine, of at least 45 minutes a day, 3 days a week at low to moderate intensity, are experienced as soon as 3.5 weeks to 4 weeks. High-intensity bouts can offer immediate benefits relating to anxiety and depression but do not have the same long-term effect as low to moderate-intensity exercise. This means that though there are some benefits to single bouts of exercise, the greatest benefit in long-term relief of symptoms comes from developing long-lasting habits.

Additional approaches that have showed positive benefits include mind-body approaches such as diaphragmatic breathing/resonant breathing, Tai-Chi, and Yoga, adventure training which offers more social, self-acceptance, and sense of achievement benefits, and of course the cognitive therapeutic methods, as mentioned earlier, which can help challenge the thoughts and perceptions which are influencing behaviors. Sport psychology has also shown benefits by increasing intrinsic motivation through goal-setting, self-talk, routine building, and reframing negative thoughts and feelings resulting in a greater sense of control.

There have been some studies that utilized 4-6 week follow-ups after ceasing the physical activity intervention that has found the benefits of the symptoms can begin to decrease and a return to the level pre-intervention. This is why we hope the 4-Week Challenge is only a stepping stone for a lifelong commitment towards physical and mental health through physical activity.