Are You a Case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Alarm Against Obesity.

Women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) gain weight more rapidly and are more likely to be overweight or obese, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Harvard School of Public Health.

The study published online in JAMA Psychiatry showed that, after PTSD symptom onset, women with at least 4 symptoms had a faster rise in BMI (b = 0.08 [SE = 0.02]; P < .001). The onset of at least 4 PTSD symptoms in 1989 or later was also associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese (odds ratio, 1.36 [95% CI, 1.19-1.56]) among women with a normal BMI in 1989. It was concluded that, experience of PTSD symptoms is associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese, and PTSD symptom onset alters BMI trajectories over time.


What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD, or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood.

PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms. PTSD patients often may develop additional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. The disorder is also associated with impairment of the person’s ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and divorces, family discord, and difficulties in parenting.

How exactly does PTSD lead to weight gain?

The biological pathway is unknown, but scientists have a number of guesses. One is through the over-activation of stress hormones. PTSD may lead to disturbances in functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system, each of which are involved in regulating a broad range of body processes, including metabolism. Another is through unhealthy behavior patterns that may be used to cope with stress. Ongoing research is looking at whether PTSD increases women’s preference for processed foods and decreases their likelihood of exercising.

Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief

Stress can become harmful when it becomes overwhelming and interrupts the healthy state of equilibrium that your nervous system needs to remain in balance. When stress tries to throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques can bring it back into a balanced state by producing the relaxation response, a state of deep calmness that is the polar opposite of the stress response.

Are You a Case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Alarm Against Obesity.

Finding the right relaxation technique: The right relaxation technique is the one that resonates with you, fits your lifestyle, and is able to focus your mind and interrupt your everyday thoughts in order to elicit the relaxation response.

  • Deep Breathing: Breathing deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible in your lungs is referred as deep breathing. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel. If you find it difficult breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying on the floor.
  • Meditation: This technique involves sitting in a relaxed position and clearing your mind. You may focus on a sound, like ‘ooommm’, or on your own breathing, or on nothing at all. It’s necessary to have 5-20 distraction-free minutes to spend. It’s helpful to have silence and privacy, but more practiced meditators can do it anywhere. Many practitioners of meditation attach a spiritual component to it, but it can also be a secular exercise.
  • Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR): close your eyes and direct your attention to each part of your body in turn. As you do so, tense the muscle of the area and hold for 5 sec, then release and totally relax the muscles. Concentrate on the sensation of warmth and heaviness you will experience for about 10 sec.
  • Rhythmic Exercise: Exercise is a great tension-fighter. It can improve body image, confidence and self-awareness. Exercise also increases the level of certain neurotransmitters (endorphins) that are known to elevate mood. Summoning the energy to go to aerobics class can be very difficult especially when you are feeling down and out. Start off slowly—even ten minutes a day is better than nothing. Exercise with a friend if possible, to help keep your motivation up. Even a simple walk around the block is better than nothing and is a great way to start exercising. Twenty to thirty minutes of bicycling, swimming, dancing, running, or brisk walking can relieve most common, mild depressions. Yoga exercises combined with some deep breathing and meditation each morning, will leave you feeling refreshed and better able to face the day.

More to Stress Management:

  • A Balanced Diet: Deficiency of various vitamins and mineral can exhibit a number of symptoms which might lead to mental and physical stress. Plenty of whole grains and pulses, and regular amounts of lean meat, offal, oily fish, shellfish and eggs, will supply B vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc. A high intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, melon, oranges and berries) will supply ample Vitamin C. Dark green leafy vegetables will improve levels of calcium, magnesium and iron; while dairy produce (preferably low fat) will boost reserves of calcium .
  • Regular Sleep Pattern: Too much noise, light, or activity in your bedroom can make sleeping harder. Creating a quiet, comfortable sleeping area can help. Try to use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Move away the TV and radio out of your bedroom. Plus, keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Use curtains or blinds to block out light. Consider using soothing music or a “white noise” machine to block out noise. These changes can help regularize your sleep pattern. Depending on your sleep symptoms and other factors, your doctor may prescribe some medication for you (if you can’t sleep). There are also other skills you can learn to help improve your sleep.

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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