Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a neuropsychological disorder that gained attention over the years due to soldiers returning from war with what use to be called “shell shock.” Post-traumatic stress disorder, however, is not solely associated with soldiers returning from war. In fact, the vast majority of people who suffer from PTSD is found in another population; adult women who suffered from childhood sexual abuse. The research for how childhood trauma, especially abuse by one’s caregiver, affects the brain is still a relatively new field, but evidence has revealed that it can change one’s brain, and thereby, change how a person responses to trauma in the future. Researchers also know that early victims are more likely to be re-victimized in the future; increasing one’s chances of developing PTSD. In this paper, I will discuss the effects of PTSD on the adult brain of a childhood sexual abuse survivor.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a neuropsychological disorder that is caused by exposure to extreme trauma and stress. These incidences; sexual assault; unexpected death of a loved one; threatened death to one’s self or a loved one; obtaining or being threatened with serious bodily harm; or witnessing traumatic events such as a serious car accident (such as in the case of first responders); living through a natural disaster; and experiencing war; can cause a person to have vivid, intrusive, reoccurring flashbacks, nightmares, thoughts, or emotional or physical reactions to either internal or external cues that remind one of the incident  (DSM 5, 2013). In response to these intrusive memories, individuals will often employ some type of avoidance behavior; they will avoid talking about or being reminded of the event(s) in any way.

In addition, patients will experience a wide range of emotions that are negative in nature, and they must experience at least two of the following symptoms, in addition to the above symptoms, to be diagnosed with PTSD (DSM 5, 2013). Shortly following the event the patient may be unable to recall details of the incident; they may have overtly negative thoughts about themselves and/or the world; they may have an exaggerated sense of blame for either themselves or someone else for causing the incident; they may experience negative affect (an overwhelmingly negative view of the world); they may experience a decreased interest in participating in life or activities that once interested them;  they may have extreme feelings of isolation; and they may have difficulty experiencing positive affect (DSM 5, 2013).

After a traumatic event, individuals with PTSD will experience at least two of the following reactivity symptoms; they may become extremely irritable or aggressive; they may partake in risky or dangerous behavior; they may become hypervigilant (meaning that they may be always “on their guard” or “ready to run” at any time); they may have a heightened startle response; and they may experience difficulty with sleeping and/or concentrating (DSM 5, 2013). The symptoms must also have a duration of at least one month, they must cause significant distress or functional impairment in the patient’s life, and they must not be due to substance use or another psychological disorder (DSM 5, 2013).

Epidemiology

The National Comorbidity Survey Replication, conducted between February 2001, and April 2003, found that a diagnoses of PTSD, within the adult American population, was a remarkable 6.7 percent. Among men that percentage was 3.6 percent, and among women that percentage was at an astounding 9.7 percent of the population (Gradus, 2017). Women are almost twice as likely as men to experience PTSD in their lifetime, and this is mostly due to either childhood sexual abuse and/or, sexual assault as an adult.

Long term trauma, trauma in which the victim is under complete control of the perpetrator and cannot escape, such as childhood physical or sexual abuse, causes additional symptoms in the victims that may not manifest until later in life, and/or, they can or have, become chronic; causing severe dysfunction in the victim’s life and in their interpersonal relationships. Although it is not listed in the DSM 5, Complex PTSD, is a subtype of PTSD that only effects victims of long term trauma.  Survivors of long term trauma will often display issues with emotional regulation, consciousness, and self-perception; they may have a distorted perception of the perpetrator, often attributing total power to the perpetrator, or becoming preoccupied with revenge; survivors may experience a plethora of problems in their interpersonal relationships, including being unable to trust anyone, repeatedly looking for a “rescuer,” promiscuity may be a problem, or they may take the opposite route and never date anyone; and often survivors are plagued with a feeling of unworthiness, hopelessness, and despair (National Center for PTSD, 2016). Often survivors of childhood sexual abuse have relationships with people who continue to abuse them, or their children. Breaking the cycle of abuse, becomes a major aspect in treatment for these patients.

I started this paper with the belief that not too much research had been done regarding PTSD on victims of childhood sexual abuse, but I found plenty of research. I chose this topic because I am one of the many survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and I plan on targeting trauma, stress, and anxiety related disorders after I complete my doctorate in psychology; I want to know how to help survivors cope with the abuse they suffered through, how to heal from the past, and how to have a quality relationship with a partner in the present.

Natural History of PTSD

Almost everyone experiences some sort of traumatic event at least once in their life, but not everyone develops PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous situation either. Symptoms usually start occurring within three months of the incident, but they may not develop until years later. The course of PTSD varies, some patients recover within six months of treatment, but for some patients the condition may last much longer, or it may become chronic. It is important that people who do suffer from PTSD seek professional assistance as soon as possible. Treatment usually consist of psychotherapy and medication, and with treatment, a patient has an increased likelihood of recovering from PTSD. Without treatment a patient may go on to experience additional life problems to include; drug or alcohol abuse, depression or anxiety, physical symptoms of chronic pain, employment problems, and/or, relationships problems (National Center for PTSD, 2016).

Methods used to Diagnose PTSD

Psychologists have a variety of assessments available to them to diagnose PTSD. Some, such as the Beck Anxiety Inventory – Primary Care (BAI-PC), are self-reports, that the patients fill out on their own and then gives to a physician. The BAI-PC is a seven item self-report assessment that screens for anxiety, depression and PTSD, as well as other disorders that are highly co-morbid with PTSD, such as drug or alcohol abuse (Mori, 2003).  A positive score of five indicates the patient may suffer from PTSD, but will need to be screened again by a professional.

Other assessments are designed for use in a primary care setting. The Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM – 5 (PC-PTSD-5) is a five item screen that was designed for use in a primary care setting and is used to determine those patients with probable PTSD (National Center for PTSD, 2017). However, a positive indicator on this assessment means that the patient should undergo a structured interview by a psychologist who specializes in trauma and stress related disorders. If a psychologist determines that a patient has PTSD, the use of medication may be required, but cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are two recommended treatments for PTSD (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016).

Risk Factors

While anyone can experience a traumatic event that results in a diagnosis of PTSD at any time, and at any age, there are certain risk factors involved in developing PTSD. People who have experienced long term trauma, or have a genetic predisposition to the disorder are more prone than others to developing PTSD after a traumatic experience. However, most people will not develop PTSD due to high resilience factors.

Some things that may increase one’s chances of developing PTSD include, living through dangerous events and traumas to include natural disasters; getting hurt; seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body; childhood trauma; feeling extreme fear; having little or no social support after the event; dealing with additional stress, such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job or home, and being injured due to, or after the event (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016).

Some things that may make a person more resilient against PTSD include, seeking out assistance and social support, friends, family, and a local support group are all good ideas; learning to feel good about one’s own actions during and following the traumatic experience; and having a positive coping strategy after the event (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). Research is ongoing about the effects of PTSD on the central and peripheral nervous systems, however, some remarkable discoveries have already been discovered, and may assist in the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD in the future.

Neurological and Biological Systems Involved in PTSD

Women who have suffered and lived through prolonged childhood sexual abuse make up anywhere from eight to thirty-three percent of the American population, depending on how pervasive the abuse was (Steine et al., 2017). They are more likely to develop intimate relationships with abusers, and the abuse continues into adulthood. The patients who develop PTSD report multiple types of abuse, physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and neglect (Steine et al., 2017).  PTSD effects these patients differently than it does patients who have PTSD but did not suffer childhood sexual abuse (Binder, 2013). Post-traumatic stress disorder effects many parts of the brain, and those are some of the very parts of the brain affected by childhood sexual abuse (Blanco et al., 2015).

PTSD is an extremely complicated disorder, and its effect on the brain and hormones in the body are many and varied. The locus coeruleus, a nucleus located at the base of the brain stem, which is responsible for the bodies response to stress, among other things such as cognition and memory, releases increased amounts of norepinephrine (a hormone) into the body in response to stress. This makes the person more aware of their surroundings, and activates the sympathetic nervous system (flight, fight or freeze system). In patients with PTSD, norepinephrine is released in increased amounts; a patient may have a minor event that reminds them of a past traumatic experience, such as a combination of words, or the way a person touches them, that makes them over-react to the stimulus (Wilson, 2013).

Repeat exposure to trauma, such as in the case of childhood sexual abuse survivors, changes the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and endocrine response to stress, as well as its function in metabolic and immune systems of the body (McGowan, 2013). The HPA plays an important role in maintaining allostasis, or the body’s ability to maintain stability amongst challenging environmental circumstances.

The decreased size of the hippocampus shown in most patients with PTSD is related to an increase in the activity of the hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is released in relation to stress and the prolonged exposure to the hippocampus of this hormone has been shown to cause atrophy in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for episodic memory creation. Decreased amounts of cortisol release during the initial event may lead to a chronic over-reaction to stress in patients who later develop PTSD (Sherin, & Nemeroff, 2011).  In addition, functional imaging studies have shown a decrease in response of the prefrontal cortex, and an increase in response from the amygdala in patients with PTSD, leading some scientists to believe that stimulators of the limbic stress system prevail over inhibitors (Malejko, et al., 2017). Since, in PTSD, individuals associate neutral cues with the traumatic event(s), it has been suggested that the interaction between the hippocampus and amygdala, as two regions of the brain that play a role in consolidating memories, may contribute to the intense recollection of trauma experienced by patients with PTSD (Malejko, et al., 2017).

The biological and neurological systems that are involved in, and affected by, PTSD are numerous and varied. Interactions between the stress response system and the threat response systems of patients with PTSD may explain the avoidance and emotional reactivity aspects of PTSD. Reduced connections between the amygdala and cingulate cortex imply a decreased ability to cope with fear vigilance and reactions to threats (Wilson, 2013). Research is underway in regards to genetic factors that may make a person more predisposed to develop PTSD. Recent research has revealed a relationship between the SLC6A4 serotonin transporter genotype and elevated PTSD symptoms (Wilson, 2013). Future studies hope to reveal the interconnectedness between all the neural pathways involved in PTSD.

Treatment Options

Diverse pharmacological and psychological treatments have been used for the treatment of PTSD. Pharmacological treatment doesn’t erase the traumatic memory of the incident(s), instead it aims to control such symptoms as anxiety, depression, and/or alcohol and drug related disorders, all common co-morbid diagnosis with PTSD. Medication to help with sleep disorders and/or nightmares may be prescribed as well (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). Antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and sleep medications are common symptoms control treatments for PTSD. However, the best therapy for PTSD is psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” is the best know treatment for PTSD, and there are various forms of psychotherapy. The two best known treatments for PTSD are cognitive behavioral therapy, and exposure therapy. Both types of therapy should only be attempted with a psychologist who specialized in trauma and stress related disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients to question and then alter their dysfunctional perceptions and reactions to trauma by confronting traumatic memories, and retraining the patient in responding to those memories (Malejko, et al., 2017). Sometimes patients remember the event differently than it happened and in that case psychologists will help the patient remember it the correct way, or help them to make sense of the bad memory. Sometimes the patient may feel blame or guilt for something that is not their fault, and the psychologist will assist the patient in placing blame where it belongs (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016).

Exposure therapy involves slowly introducing aspects, such as tactile, visual, auditory, and olfactory cues that remind the patient of the traumatic event(s) (Malejko, et al., 2017). Occasionally, if possible, the psychologist may take the patient to the place the traumatic incident(s) occurred. This helps patients with PTSD learn to face and control their fear. By slowing introducing the patient to the traumatic event in a safe environment, psychiatrists help the patient cope with his or her feelings (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). The main theme of treatment appears to be the confronting and restructuring of memories related to the traumatic experience(s).

Psychotherapy helps patients by teaching them about trauma and its effects on the body and brain. It teaches patients how to manage and control their anger, as well as techniques to relax, and calm down. Patients should learn about how to sleep, exercise, and eat better; learning the effects of how these things can effect responses in the nervous system. In addition, psychotherapy is designed to teach patients how to identify and cope with feelings of shame, guilt, disgust, revenge, and how to have a healthy relationship with oneself and with others (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). In regard to patients with PTSD who also experienced childhood sexual abuse, it is important the doctor imparts to the patient, over and over again, that the abuse is not his or her fault.

Patients are highly encouraged to help themselves as well. Some ways that patients can help themselves recover from PTSD include; taking the first step by talking to their doctor; engage in physical activity every day; break up large tasks into smaller steps, and set realistic goals for oneself. Patients are especially encouraged to engage socially, either with trusted family and friends, or with a support group (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016).  Talking about the event gives it less and less power, and patients are encouraged to talk about the event(s), and triggers to people they trust. Patients should be aware that symptoms will improve gradually over time, not immediately. Patients are highly encouraged to seek professional help in an outpatient facility, such as their local mental health center (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016).

Future Research

Research is still underway on PTSD, but recent research has encouraged scientists and helped them to narrow their focus on different areas and functions of the brain, as well as possible genetic predispositions to the disorder (Sherin, & Nemeroff, 2011).  Some research is looking at trauma victims in acute care settings to try to better understand how the symptoms improve in those patients who heal naturally. Some research currently underway include looking at how fear memories are effected by learning, changes in the body, and sleep. Preventative treatment measures are also underway; scientists are currently looking into how to prevent PTSD following a traumatic experience. Research into trying to predict how a patient will respond to one intervention or another better is also currently underway. With technology improving every year, one-day scientist may be able to pinpoint the exact gene and part of the brain in which PTSD starts to develop (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016).

Conclusion

PTSD is a debilitating disorder that activates the bodies sympathetic nervous system causing the patients to experience a heightened response to stress and trauma, and minor cues of both internal and external stimuli that results in an over exaggerated startle reflex, and intrusive memories of the incident(s). Neurological studies have shown an extensive connection between the stress and fear response in the body’s central and peripheral nervous systems. Long term exposure to trauma, such as in the case of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, shows an increased probability of developing PTSD if one is exposed to trauma as an adult. Unfortunately, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are more likely to engage in unsafe activities and relationships that often result in exposure to more trauma. Psychologists should focus treatment on confronting and reshaping behaviors toward bad memories and traumatic experiences. PTSD is a curable disorder under the direction of a specialists who exposes the patient to the traumatic experience in a safe environment over a long term period. Patient can sometimes expect to see improvement in as little as six months, but, depending on the type of trauma one is exposed to, and its duration, symptoms may become chronic, but manageable. Patients must be willing to take the first step in talking to their primary care provider. “Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing creates change you do choose” (Michelle Rosenthal). One must choose to heal by taking away the power of the traumatic experience by talking about it, and remembering that you are not alone.

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The Study of Religion

What is Religion?

Merriam Webster defines religion as “a belief in a god or a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” (Merriam Webster, 2016).  However, this is neither a complete nor accurate definition of religion.

Religion could be said to contain some or all of the following eight elements: belief system; community; central myths; ritual; ethics; characteristic emotional experiences; material expression; and sacredness. A belief system is where several beliefs about the universe and humans place in the world fit together to form a worldview. This belief system or worldview is shared by several people in a community, and its ideals are practiced by this community. Religions contain myths or stories about the creator of the universe or about the human helper the creator sent to Earth. It should be noted that myth does not necessarily mean the stories are untrue, just that they are a part of that specific religion. Religions contain rituals or ceremonies that are practiced by the community, such as baptism in Christianity. Religions provide rules or ethics about how people should act and how they should treat others. These rituals and ceremonies usually bring a characteristic emotional experience with them, such as awe, or inner peace, maybe even fear. Religions use material expressions, such as paintings, and statues to depict the lives of the deities or saints that form the religious belief system. Religions carry with a feeling of sacredness by using special clothing, different languages, or places, in the community to shares in this sacredness (Molloy, 2013). Regardless of what religion one believes in and follows, all religions have certain elements in common.

Patterns in World Religions

All religions are different, but all religions are also the same in some ways. All religions have three major patterns that can be seen across cultures, and those patterns are views of the world and life, focus on beliefs and practices, and views on males and females (Molloy, 2013).

All religions attempt to answer one of the most profound questions known to humankind – What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our purpose?  How did the universe come into existence; will it ever end? How do we reach fulfillment or salvation? What is or should be our relationship with nature? What is or what should be our relationship with the sacred or the holy?  All religions answer these questions in different ways (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions define the sacred or “God” as transcendent, living in a realm beyond our ability to reach. Other religions represent sacred as being within humans and nature and can be experienced as energy or a feeling of peace. Sometimes it is seen as having personal attributes, much like humans, and sometimes it is viewed as an impersonal entity, who has not care about humans (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions see the creator of the universe as a personal, caring entity that has a master plan for the cosmos, and that he or she is guiding the world along on an ultimate path that leads to his or her ultimate goal for life. Other religions view the universe as eternal, having neither a beginning nor end. If the religion sees the universe as having been created by a creator, then that religion worships that creator. If, however, the religion views the universe as eternal, with no creator, then the universe becomes the center of that religion (Molloy, 2013).

The human attitude toward nature is also something all religions address. Some religions believe that nature was put here to be the tools for man. Some religions preach that nature is evil and must be overcome. Some religions say that nature is sacred and needs no alterations. And, some religions teach that nature is or was created by a divine being for humans to shape (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions time is considered linear, moving in a straight line from the beginning to the end; the end of everything as we know it. In these religions time is important because it is limited and unrepeatable. In other religions time is cylindrical, moving in an endless pattern of changes that repeat themselves over and over again on a grand scale. In these religions time is not so important, the universe is not moving towards an ultimate ending, and enjoying the present is more important than being concerned about the future (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions, humans have a purpose and are part of a great divine plan. Individual meaning comes from within and from the divine in the context of a great struggle between the forces of good and evil. In these religions human actions are of great importance and therefore, their actions are prescribed by a righteous moral code. In other religions, however, human life and their actions are not viewed as important, and the individual person is only part of a much larger reality. In these religions, humans are not seen as a small part of a larger plan; they are seen as part of a family, society, and the universe as a whole; placing more importance on how one may achieve harmony with the universe, as opposed to their individual salvation. Human action is not guided by a divine moral code, but by the family and society of the individual (Molloy, 2013).

Different Approaches to Studying Religions

            The study of religion was, at one time, divided among different academic fields. Fields such as psychology, theology, and philosophy would study different aspects of religions. Now, the study of religion is unified into one academic field, but all the different fields still study religion as part of their curriculum.

Psychology means soul study in Greek, and encompasses the study of human mental states, emotions, and behaviors. Psychology takes a special interest in religions because of its rich material in human experiences. Mythology is the study of myths, which is the study of religious stories, texts, and arts that reveal universal commonalities. Philosophy means the love of wisdom in Greek, and encompasses the study of human life and their purpose. Theology means the study of the divine in Greek, and encompasses the study of one particular religious belief, usually the religion of the theologies who is doing the studying in order to gain a deeper understanding of their own religion (Molloy, 2013).

Critical Issues in Studying Religion

The academic study of religion has, in the past, been carried out by individuals seeking to find further knowledge in their own religion. However, in recent decades, there has been a shift in this cycle where now people are wanting to study religion academically without promoting the beliefs of one religion over another. The great questions of religions were once studied as a philosophy course in colleges, while other aspects of religious beliefs were found scattered in such academic departments as anthropology, history, or psychology. The study of religion then was very fragmented, scattered all over the college campus, and no unified course could be found.

In the recent past, all of this has changed and now most campuses have a department for studying religion as a whole. However, the academic study of religion brings problems and questions, as well as clarity, insight, and answers. Some concerns include the rights and obligations that professionals hold towards the practitioners of each religion, the truthfulness of informants or interpreters, the objectivity of the professional, and how, and in what way do researchers change indigenous communities.

 

References

Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and change (6th

Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Religion. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2016, from http://www.merriam

webster.com/dictionary/religion

How to get a Better Nights’ Sleep!

Do you suffer from insomnia? Have a hard time falling asleep? Have a hard time staying asleep? Do you toss and turn for hours, counting how much sleep you will get if you fall asleep “right now?” I use to be just like you, but not anymore. Sleep is something we all require. Like food, water, and air, it is essential to our survival. Although the scientific reasons for why we need sleep are still being investigated, we do know that without adequate sleep, humans can suffer from poor quality of life, as well as physical and mental disorders. Certain things do make sleeping (rather falling or staying), easier, and insomnia is something that can be managed, usually without the use of medication.

Insomnia is a common problem. You are not alone. It is especially prevalent in individuals who range in age from 18-25… college years. This is such a common age for individuals with insomnia because of the added stress of college, moving away from home, school work, and homesickness. But, do not worry, I have some suggestions for how you can achieve a full nights’ sleep, without taking any drugs.

Sleep comes in stages. We all know that falling asleep is easy when you are relaxed and in a peaceful state of mind. That’s the first step in falling asleep. Relax. Do not think about stressful things. Learning to mediate before bed may be helpful in this, especially if you are a college student and stressed about school work. Stage one of sleep is very light; you may have experienced this stage while slowly passing out on your living room couch. You are essentially still aware of what is going on around you.

Stage two of sleep is a little deeper, it is associated with the loss of awareness. Stage three of sleep is deeper still, and stage four  is the deepest sleep of all. Most people go through a sleep cycle; stage one-to stage two-to stage three-to stage four, back to stage one, that lasts about ninety minutes. As a person moves from stage four to stage one they enter REM sleep. REM sleep is characterized by dreams, and, scientifically, by the loss of muscle control, and rapid eye movement (REM). REM is also known as paradoxical sleep because of the bodies and brains increased activity, while muscle activity is pretty much non-existent. In order to achieve a full night’s rest, one must enter all of these stages for a period of time throughout the night.

If one suffers from insomnia, a quality night’s sleep sounds like heaven; I know. Let’s talk about some tips to get you there.

First and foremost: DICTH THE TV! If you have a hard time sleeping at night, it may be your TV keeping you awake. Turn it off. Even better, take it out of your bedroom. Read a book. A real book. Do not get on social media, do not get on your phone, do not read a book from your phone. Read a real book.

Second: BE CONSISTENT! Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day; even on the weekends. Try not to disrupt your circadian rhythm; stay on a schedule. Limit day time naps to only thirty minutes. Napping does not “make up” lost sleep, but a short nap can help to improve mood, and increase attentiveness and performance. Establish a bedtime routine; yes, just like what you had as a child. An example of a relaxing bedtime routine may include, a nice hot bath or shower, some stretching, maybe some meditation, and a good book. A bedtime routine helps your body recognize that it is bed time. Try to avoid anything that is emotionally upsetting before bed. Do not pick this time to talk about your deepest feelings with your significant other. The brain must be relaxed to fall asleep; save that conversation for morning. You’ll be happy you did.

Third: NO STIMULANTS BEFORE BED! Alright, this means do not eat fatty foods or greasy foods before you go to bed. Do not smoke, or dink carbonated or caffeinated beverages before bed. The food may cause heart burn, which will keep you awake. The caffeine and cigarettes can keep you awake. Stimulants such as alcohol or marijuana, both of which people associate with a good night’s sleep, may actually have the opposite effect. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but during the second half of the night, when your body starts processing the alcohol, it can disrupt your sleep; best to stay clear. Marijuana has been showed to have an effect on the amount of time a long term user spends in REM sleep. So, while marijuana may help, if you are an occasional user, after years of use, it will deprive you of dream time; disrupting your sleep cycle. If you stop using marijuana you may experience what is called REM rebound. REM rebound is where a person experiences exceptionally vivid dreams after quitting marijuana; this usually only lasts a short period as your body adjusts to having more time in REM sleep than it is used to.

Fourth: GET PLENTY OF EXERCISE AND SUNLIGHT! As little as ten minutes of exercise, especially if it takes place outside, can drastically improve one’s night of sleep. For most people, intense physical exercise right before bed doesn’t work, however, a brisk walk, or jog after dinner can have a tiring effect a few hours later. Exercise in the morning, can help wake you up, and help to tire you out at night. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Fifth: CREATE A PLESANT SLEEP ENVIRONMENT! I already said to ditch the TV, and I’m going to reiterate it here; DITCH the TV! If you are scared of the dark, or just want something to light the way, try a soft blue light in the bathroom, so it doesn’t disturb your sleep. Make your bed as comfortable as possible to best suit your desires. I, personally, like to feel like I’m sleeping on a cloud; we have lots of down pillows. The temperature should be between sixty and sixty-seven degrees for optimal sleep. Some people sleep best with a fan, this may be because the fan works as a white noise machine, and white noise machines have proven to help with insomnia. Consider trying black out curtains, eye mask, and/or ear plugs. Turn your smart technologies off or over so the light cannot disturb you.

Most people find that just a few minor changes in sleep habits can have a significant impact on their sleep quality. Experiment with these techniques and see what works best for you. If you are experiencing prolonged sleeplessness, consider consulting your doctor; you may have other psychological disorders that are preventing you from falling asleep; such as anxiety, PTSD, or depression.

The Benefits of Space Exploration

 

Mankind has always had an interest in exploring and discovering new things; this interest has spanned oceans, lands, and vast seas of stars and planets. From the very first mention of astronomy in ancient Babylon to the current race to Mars, space exploration has always been a fascination of the human race. In ancient times, astronomy was used to track seasons, predict future events, and in some cases, architecture. But, today mankind doesn’t just stand on earth and study the stars, they can now travel to the stars. With NASA and private companies such as Mars One, planning a manned mission to Mars within the next fifteen years, the debate on rather or not to send manned missions into space is a hot one. Some scientists claim manned missions into space are not only a waste of money but a dangerous waste of money and that robots can accomplish the same thing with less money and risk. Other scientists argue that the benefits of colonizing Mars, advancing the human race and the possibility of finding life out there, make the cost and the risk worthwhile.

Safe Travel through Space

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has always played an active role in the advancement of technology. NASA scientists have invented such products as LED lighting, memory foam, artificial limbs, cochlear implants, scratch resistant eyeglass wear, and insulin pumps for diabetic patients (John Jones, Dan Lockney, 2008). While these are all inventions most people are familiar with, they are all offshoots of other inventions meant to send manned missions safely into space.

NASA has been busy for the last fifty years, concentrating more on sending robotic missions into space rather than manned missions. Some of those missions include the Mars rover, the Hubble spacecraft, and the newest mission due to launch on March 12th 2015, Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS); which will study the reconnection of the magnetic field surrounding the Earth (NASA, 2015). However, with the manned mission to Mars on the horizon NASA, Mars One, and Inspiration Mars are now concentrating on safe travel for humans through space.

The first planned trip to Mars is Inspiration Mars, a two manned mission that is to be “… launched on a flight path that takes it looping around the Red Planet and then directly back to Earth” (Henbest, 2013, p. 2. para.2). The most dangerous part of the trip will be reentry when the spacecraft enters Earth’s atmosphere around 50,000 kilometers per hour, faster than any mission before it (Henbest, 2013). To combat the possibility that the astronauts will fry upon reentry, the scientists involved with Inspiration Mars are working with NASA to create a heat shield to surround the spaceship.

NASA is building the Orion capsule to send a manned mission to Mars’s moon, Phobos in 2025, but they lack a detailed plan (Henbest, 2013). The intent is to overview a robotically built planetary base on Mars with the astronauts due to fly there in 2031. However, by 2031, NASA may already be behind the Mars One mission, which plans on landing humans on Mars by 2025.

Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders, the founders of Mars One, have plans to colonize Mars by 2025. The flight to Mars will last four to six months, and the astronauts will never return to Earth (Henbest, 2013).  The largest dangers to the human body from spending so much time in space are muscle atrophy, bone density loss, and radiation damage from both just being in space, and from the sun (Henbest, 2013). Solar radiation (radiation from the sun) is much harder to shield against than the radiation that naturally exist in space. In order to protect the Astronauts on board the Mars One mission, Lansdorp has invented a spaceship that will have “… several thousand liters of water filling a hollow shell around the crews sleeping compartment” (Henbest, 2013, p. 3.para.12). As the best protection against solar radiation is organic matter, not heavy lead shields. As the first human colonization of another planet, Mars One will also face unique situations when they land on Mars.

Safely Living On Mars

Life on Mars will vary from life on Earth in many ways. The lighting on Mars varies from an amber color to a gray color, temperature varies from -225 degrees to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, the atmosphere is made up of primarily carbon dioxide (95%) and unpredictable dust storms that can be miles long and last for days can wreak havoc on infrastructures. Gravity on Mars is about a third of what it is on Earth and days are about thirty-nine minutes longer (Henbest, 2013). So, how will humans survive and prosper in such harsh conditions?

The dust present in the Martin atmosphere causes the sunsets and sunrises to have an opposite effect on what occurs on Earth; “… instead of our blue-sky with pinkish/red effects around the sun, Mars presents pinkish-red sunsets/sunrises with touches of blue in the vicinity of the Sun” (Discovery Channel, 2015, p. 1.para.7). Days and twilights will last longer, and astronauts will have to adjust to the longer days by wearing special watches designed to keep Martian time (Discovery Channel, 2015).

Since the gravity on Mars is 38% of the value of Earth, exercise, and special precaution will have to be taken to prevent muscle atrophy and bone density loss. Astronauts will carry exercise equipment with them to the Red planet, and they will need to develop a way to walk on Mars, such as the bunny hop the astronauts used on the Moon (Discovery Channel, 2015). “The effects of gravity on humans and living organism are not fully understood and need further study. Results to date have shown a profound effect on the health of humans. Thus, new methodologies and technologies need to be developed to keep humans healthy and productive and grow crops in this environment” (Krishen, 2009, p. 231. para.6). While the production of plants on Mars can be accomplished through hydroponics and artificial lighting; how will the first astronauts to Mars produce enough water to survive?

The first unmanned mission to Mars is a demonstration mission and it is set to prove the technologies needed to colonize Mars (Mars One, 2014). The Mars One probe, as it is being called, is charged with setting up a direct line of sight between Earth and Mars so the camera and satellite can communicate with Earth and so Earth can have a live feed of Mars 365 days a year (Mars One, 2014). It is also responsible for settling on a spot where water can be extracted from the Martian soil and for testing a variety of thin film solar panels, both experiments will prove the feasibility of human colonization on Mars (Mars One, 2014). Scientist believes that just under the topsoil of Mars is a thin layer of ice, and the Mars One probe will utilize that ice to make water for the human colony.

Human Verses Robot

Traditionally, robots are used in lieu of persons. They are sent on missions too dangerous or inaccessible to people, and the purpose has always been to prepare the way for humans. However, with the cost of one person being sent to Mars around 50 billion per; some scientist argues that it is too expensive and too dangerous to send humans to live on Mars. They believe robots can accomplish the same goals at a percentage of the cost and with no life lost (Discovery Channel, 2015).

The argument for robot versus human is a vast and highly complex case. Some of the reasons these scientists believe robot only missions would be best including; eliminating the risk of human error, eliminating the need for psychosocial and psychological evaluations, elimination of long-term health effects on humans, and the cost of sending robots to Mars is exponentially lower than manned missions plus return trips are not needed (Discovery Channel, 2015).

However, robots are not as independent or as functional as humans. They require constant supervision and direction from humans; if they are out of communication with Earth, they just sit and wait for further instruction (Discovery Channel, 2015). Whereas, humans can perform tasks and still maintain the mission if communications with ground control are lost (Discovery Channel, 2015). Humans can make independent decisions and do not require constant supervision.

The cost of sending humans into space is extraordinary, whereas the cost of sending robots is dependent upon the technologies used on that robot. “Humans are bulky, fragile and expensive to maintain” (Discovery Channel, 2015, p. 1. table 1. section 6.). Robots, on the other hand, are economical, expandable, and they don’t need supplies. However, some scientist would argue that “… the scientific gains of one human mission would be worth that of ten robot only missions” (Discovery Channel, 2015) as humans can continue advancing technologies and exploring space without direct instructions.

Conclusion

Although some scientists say that human space exploration is both a dangerous risk to our astronauts and a waste of money, the thought of exploring space has always been a fascination of mankind. From the very beginning of history, we see evidence of mapping of the planets, galaxies, and stars. Mankind will always want to travel beyond and reach higher than the moon, with the new plans to colonize Mars, mankind may soon have the answer to rather or not there is life out there.

References

Discovery Channel. (2015). Life on Mars: A travel brochure for the Red Planet. Retrieved from Discovery Channel: http://www.racetomars.ca/mars/article_life_mars.jsp

Discovery Channel. (2015). Robots Versus Astronaunts. Retrieved from Discovery Channel: http://www.racetomars.ca/mars/article_robots.jsp

Henbest, N. (2013, July 13). Life on Mars. New Scientist, 219(2925), 02. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=22&sid=91b75b80-1667-43e0-a8be-6423b27e11db%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4207&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLGNwaWQmY3VzdGlkPXM4ODU2ODk3JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=89031951

John Jones, Dan Lockney. (2008). NASA Technologies Benefit Our Lives. Retrieved from Spinoff: http://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/tech_benefits.html

Krishen, K. (2009). Technology Needs for Future Space Exploration. IETE Technical Review, 26(4), 228-235. Retrieved Febuary 20, 2015, from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/detail/detail?sid=d72ca07d-98eb-4639-acbe-cba0fc0b65e3%40sessionmgr112&vid=2&hid=104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=aph&AN=56440910

Mars One. (2014, Febfuary). Mars One – First Private Mars Mission in 2018. Retrieved from Indie Go Go: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mars-one-first-private-mars-mission-in-2018#2018

NASA. (2015). Magnetospheric Multiscale. NASA. NASA. Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mms/index.html#.VP3G7vnF848

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Psychological disorders are malfunctions in the mind that involve one’s thoughts, behaviors, or emotions that cause an individual significant distress and dysfunction over a period of time. Psychological disorders may interfere with a person’s ability to function in everyday life; they may be unable to meet their own personal needs, and/or be a danger to themselves or others. Generalized anxiety disorder is not considered to a dangerous disorder, however, it can cause some severe dysfunction in patients’ lives. In this paper, I will discuss generalized anxiety disorder from a neurobehavioral perspective.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition, (DSM-V), generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worry and apprehension that last longer than six months and pervades every aspect of the person’s life, or nearly every aspect, and the individual finds it difficult to control these thoughts (DSM-V, 2013). This anxiety causes a variety of symptoms of which three or more must be present for more days than not over the six-month period; restlessness, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and/or sleep disturbances. These disturbances in a person’s life cannot be explained by either an addiction, such as a drug or alcohol addiction, or by another psychological disorder (DSM-V, 2013).

Biopsychosocial Theory

Generalized anxiety disorder is a disease that is caused by a variety of factors. Anxiety is generally considered to be a disorder that people are genetically predisposed too. Research has shown that generalized anxiety disorder has a heredibility factor, however, one’s environment will contribute a great deal to rather or not one develops generalized anxiety disorder (Brown, O’Leary, & Barlow, 2001). Although one may be predisposed to develop generalized anxiety disorder, evidence shows that stressful life events in childhood may play a contributing factor, events such as child abuse, the loss of a parent, or insecure attachments to caregivers (Brown, O’Leary, & Barlow, 2001). It is a comorbid disorder often occurring along with other disorders such as; autism, depression, sleep disorders, or substance abuse.

Evidence shows that the amygdala and areas of the forebrain are involved in generalized anxiety disorder. The basolateral amygdala complex (BLA), and centromedial amygdala complex, receive information about potentially negative emotions, activating the GABA neurotransmitters, leading to somatic manifestations of anxiety (Nuss, 2015).

Epidemiology

Generalized anxiety disorder is not a rare disease. In fact, it’s prevalence in the US may range as high as five percent of the population. It is found to be more prevalent in low income families, white, adult, women, and within those social groups of people who are widowed, separated, or divorced (Weisberg, 2009).

Complications

Generalized anxiety disorder is more than just excessive worrying. It can impair one’s ability to think clearly, and concentrate on a task. It can sap a person’s energy, and make it hard for them to sleep. It can lead to a worsening of, or be the cause of other psychological disorders such as; depression, substance abuse, insomnia, digestive problems, headaches, and may even cause heart problems. Generalized anxiety disorder has also been linked to suicidal tendency, and some people who suffer from the disorder to manage to carry out their suicide (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

Treatment Options

The two main treatment options for generalized anxiety disorder are psychotherapy, or medication; usually a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective therapy for generalized anxiety disorder, as it involves teaching the patient how to respond better to stress and negative emotions. Several different medications are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder including antidepressants, antianxiety, and benzodiazepines (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), are usually the first choice of physicians when treating anxiety disorders. Antidepressants and antianxiety medications take up to several weeks to work, and the side effects can be drastic, to include suicidal thoughts; physicians are advised to carefully monitor patients, changing medications if severe side effects do occur. Benzodiazepines are only used on short term basis for patients who are suffering from acute anxiety attacks, and should not be used for patients with a history of substance abuse because they can be addicting (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

Conclusion

Generalized anxiety is a psychological disorder that is quite prevalent in the population of the United States. People who suffer from this disorder are likely to stress and worry over the smallest thing in an uncontrollable manner, and this stress is likely to affect their personal life increasing the likely hood of them developing another psychological disorder. But, anxiety can be controlled with the assistance of a physician, through the use of psychotherapy, and medications. I believe Juliana Hatfield described anxiety, and its symptoms, best when she said, “Sometimes I feel like a human pincushion. Every painful emotion hits me with ridiculously exaggerated force. And, the anxiety feels like hands inside of me, squeezing my guts really hard.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Nuss, P. (2015). Anxiety disorders and GABA neurotransmission: a disturbance of

modulation. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment11, 165–175.

http://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S58841

Brown, Timothy A., O’Leary, Tracy A., & Barlow, David H.(2001). Clinical Handbook of

            Psychological Disorders, Third Edition: A Step-by-Step Treatment Manual, Chapter

Four. Retrieved from:

http://commonweb.unifr.ch/artsdean/pub/gestens/f/as/files/4660/21992_121827.pdf

Weisberg, Risa B. (2009). Overview of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Epidemiology,

Presentation, and Course. Journal of  Clinical Psychiatry 2009;70(suppl 2):4-9. Retrieved

from: http://www.psychiatrist.com/jcp/article/Pages/2009/v70s02/v70s0201.aspx

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Complications. Retrieved from:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-

disorder/basics/complications/con-20024562

Juliana Hatfield. Retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/anxiety.html

Evidence for Climate Change

Climate Change throughout History

To determine if the world’s temperature is increasing, several different methods are used, including data, where data exists, historical documents, glacier activity, sediment, tree rings, ice cores, corals, and carbon fourteen dating (Botkin & Keller, 2013). I will talk about only a couple of these. One way that scientist’s used to discovering the past climate and compare its changes throughout history, that I found interesting, is the use of historical documents.

Researchers can use historical documents such as paintings to reconstruct the climate. For example, “ships logs from the Spanish, Dutch, and English ships crossing the world’s oceans between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, provide insight into weather patterns and how these change over time” (Oosthoek, 2015, pp. 1, pp.1). Another example, “is the painting of glaciers in the Swiss Alps, in some paintings the glaciers reached down into the valley below, indicating cold times, and in some painting the glaciers were high up in the mountains, showing warm eras” (Botkin & Keller, 2013, p. 482, pp. 1). Several other historical documents are used to include, “people’s written recollections in books, newspapers, journal articles, personal journals, ships’ logs, travelers’ diaries, and farmers’ records, along with dates of wine harvests and small grain crops”  (Botkin & Keller, 2013, p. 482, pp. 1).

Another method I found interesting was how scientists use tree rings to determine how the climate has changed over the centuries. Since the growth of trees is affected by the climate, the tree rings that trees develop over the years can tell scientists a lot about the atmosphere of that tree’s life (Botkin & Keller, 2013). When the tree rings are broad, it means climate conditions were suitable for growth; when the tree rings are narrow, it means climate conditions were not good for growth (Botkin & Keller, 2013).

The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is the natural process by which the Earth’s atmosphere traps gases and warms the Earth, most is caused by water vapor (Botkin & Keller, 2013). It is called the greenhouse effect because the gases trapped in the atmosphere act like the window panes of a greenhouse, reflecting that warmth back to the surface of the Earth(Botkin & Keller, 2013). The natural gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and methane, provide a protective layer of gases from the Sun’s energy. Without that protective layer, the Sun could strike the Earth. Greenhouse gases catch the sun’s rays and reflect some of that warmth back to Earth warming the temperature (Botkin & Keller, 2013). However, human activity has increased the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere past natural conditions, causing Earth’s temperature to rise to never before seen temperatures (Botkin & Keller, 2013).

Greenhouse Gases

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and is emitted into the atmosphere naturally. However, human activity has increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 396 parts per million (ppm), an increase of over a hundred ppm since the Industrial Revolution (Botkin & Keller, 2013).

Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Methane is naturally created by certain bacteria’s that live in oxygenless environments, such as the intestines of certain mammals. However, the emittance of methane into the atmosphere over the last two hundred years as increased due to human activity. “Humans contribute methane into the environment by landfills, the burning of biofuels, the production of coal and natural gas, and agriculture” (Botkin & Keller, 2013, p. 494, pp. 3).

“Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are stable, inert compounds that are used in aerosol cans and refrigerators” (Botkin & Keller, 2013, p. 494, pp. 4). Scientists estimate “that 15% to 25% of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect may be related to CFCs” (Botkin & Keller, 2013, p. 494, pp. 4). The use of CFC was banned by the US government in 1978, which is a good thing because CFCs have the ability to absorb thousands of times more infrared radiation than carbon dioxide (Botkin & Keller, 2013).

Nitrous oxide contributes as much as five percent of greenhouse gases to the greenhouse effect. Human activity contributes this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere by using fertilizers in agricultural activities and by the burning of fossil fuels. Nitrous oxide stays in the environment for several decades (Botkin & Keller, 2013).

Evidence for Global Climate Change

Sea levels rise because of two contributing factors, the melting of land glaciers and the expansion of water. As the atmosphere warms up, much of that extra heat is taken in by our oceans and seas, causing the water to expand (NASA, 2015). Evidence shows that the global sea level has risen 6.7 inches in the last century and with the melting of land glaciers, that number is only going to increase. The rising of global sea levels has already affected some island nations, including the Marshal Islands, whose residents are living in the ocean now, and scientists predict that by the year 2050 seventeen percent of Bangladesh may be underwater (Davenport, 2015).

Impact of Climate Change in the Great Plains

I live in South Dakota, which is a part of the great plains of the United States. The great plains stretch across the United States from the border of Canada to the border of Texas and consists of a variety of environments and ecosystems. The effects of climate change on the great plains is many and varied (Environmental Protection Agency, 2015). As winters get warmer, crop cycles will alter requiring new techniques for farmers to grow their crops. The increase in global temperatures will increase the chance of droughts stressing the High Plains Aquifer, where most of the great plains get their water. With droughts will come changes in the water availability, causing challenges to crop irrigation and threatening wetlands (Environmental Protection Agency, 2015). Wetlands help to purify water naturally and are important in many respects. Climate change will impact the great plains in many ways, most of those ways will affect the United States food chain, to include the production of meat, and dairy (Environmental Protection Agency, 2015).

 

 

References

Botkin, K. a. (2013). Environmental Science: Earth as a Living Planet (Nineth ed.). Retrieved from https://phoenix.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781119168959/cfi/6/6!/4/4/2/2/1:0

Davenport, C. (2015, December 2). The Marshall Islands Are Disappearing. Retrieved from New York Times : http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/02/world/The-Marshall-Islands-Are-Disappearing.html?_r=0

Environmental Protection Agency. (2015). Great Plains. Retrieved from United States Environmental Protection Agency: http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts/greatplains.html

NASA . (2015, November ). Sea Level. Retrieved from NASA : http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/

Oosthoek, K. J. (2015, June 5). Reconstructing Past Climates. Retrieved from Enviromental History Resources : https://www.eh-resources.org/reconstructing-past-climates/

No Point

I’m so sick of my life the way it is. I’m ready for some big changes. I’m not talking about self-discovery here, although that should always be a top priority. I’m talking about being finished with school, moving, starting my business, pursuing all the things Tim and I talk about every day. We’re so finished with this place, and ready to expand and grow. It’s become painful to be here.

Three years in college, and I’m almost finished. I can’t say it’s been particularly hard, because it hasn’t been. Do I plan on getting a doctorate? Yes, I do. Am I tired of doing homework everyday instead of pursuing my dreams, and spending time with my family? Yes, I am. Do I know that I need more education in order to pursue my dreams? Yes, I do. Hence, why I sit here and do homework every day. Why I devote all my time to this endeavor. Why I only go out once a week, to go hiking, instead of disappearing into the forest forever.

Tim is tired of his job. Every day it’s a challenge to drag himself out of bed, and go to work. He wants to start a business in San Francisco. He talks about it every day. I swear, we both spend more time daydreaming than anything else. We want to go exploring in the wilderness of Yosemite. We want to spend our days chilling on the beach. We want to bring our brother back, and take him with us. We want the memories we’ll never make. Still trying to talk the twin into going with us, but he seems intent on spending his days in the everglades.

Some day’s despondency gets the best of me, and I think, “we’ll never make it.” I’m use to poverty and disappointment. Then, the new positive, self-aware me, fights back against negativity. Someday, Tim and I will make all our fantasies a reality.

I know, that with the twin and soul sister in the Bahamas, not many will miss us here. Sure, there’s a few mamas’ who will, but the majority of our families are already elsewhere. For the first time in my life, all I can think is, “let time move faster.” Just not this week, as soon I will lose my oldest daughter. This summer has been rough; we all need it to get better.

This, of course, is just a series of random thoughts I had to express. I have no point.