PTSD is Contagious

It took me years to realize how much having PTSD for 25 years affected the people around me.  Often times the people that I care about the most.  If you are suffering from PTSD I assure you in addition to the harm that this sickness causes you that it is hurting your friends and family.  Anyone who is in close proximity to you will be affected by your PTSD.  Sorry, I don’t want to be a downer but I do want to encourage you to seek treatment so you can get better, live in peace and begin the inventory of personal relationships that may need healing.  This is very difficult and often you may not see the damage your sickness has caused.  The difficulty in seeing the damage caused by your sickness is another reason to seek the guidance of a therapist who is trained AND experienced in treating trauma victims.

Did you know PTSD is contagious?  It is true.  You cannot catch PTSD from someone sneezing or blowing their nose and not washing their hands.  However, those nearest to you can “catch” PTSD from you due to your behavior.  Will, they catch a serious case of PTSD?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It is almost assured that they will be damaged emotionally.  As you begin to get better and receive healing from PTSD it becomes a little easier to see the damage you have caused to others.

I don’t want to hit you over the head with this fact but simply to cause all those with PTSD to understand that many other people are affected by how PTSD causes you to live your life.  This can be a friend or group of friends that after inviting you to many functions without you showing up simply stop inviting you or having any hope that you will ever show up.  I understand that this is because you are sick with PTSD and the thought of going out into an uncontrolled environment scares the shit out of you.  The problem is, however, those people probably do not understand that this is the reason why.  Almost every relationship you have will bear some of the damage that PTSD causes.  Your coworkers, friends, family members, etc.

My PTSD has damaged my relationship with my children.  During my EMDR treatment, I went to both of my kids and explained why I had been such an asshole so many times. They deserved an explanation for my distant and seemingly uncaring attitude.  Repairing these relationships takes time and intense effort on your part.  My PTSD affected my beautiful wife in a huge way.  Imagine being married to a hyper-vigilant, angry, terrified and distracted person for years and years.  It takes its toll on all of your relationshups.

Here is the good news.  Those relationships can be restored most of the time.  Sadly, not all of the time.  Our responsibility to those we have harmed is, to be honest, and contrite.  We must work consciously and diligently to bring peace and healing to these relationships.  While it is true that some relationships are permanently damaged by this disorder (more accurately an injury to the brain) not all are irreparably harmed.  In fact, I believe that most of those relationships can be repaired and even become stronger. Keep your head up.  Remember you are a survivor.  Face the relationships that need to be repaired with humility, honesty and the firm resolve to own your stuff and work as hard as you can to allow them to heal.  After years of PTSD induced behavior, it may take a while for these relationships and these people to forgive you.  Just as you probably weren’t aware of the damage you were causing the people who were affected may not be fully aware of the scope of the damage that has been done to them.

Let’s move forward and be at peace with everyone if it is at all possible.  Once again remember you are a survivor and after the darkness, the sun does shine…every day.

What PTSD Taught Me About Giving Back

“Even in times of trauma, we try to maintain a sense of normality until we no longer can. That, my friends, is called surviving. Not healing. We never become whole again … we are survivors. If you are here today… you are a survivor. But those of us who have made it thru hell and are still standing? We bear a different name: warriors.”
― Lori Goodwin

It has been 1 year and 143 days since my last PTSD “episode.”  I feel great.  Sure, I still have to consciously “fight the lie” as I call it.  It is my way of saying that when a lie enters my head such as “I will always be fucked up in the head.  I am a loser and will never get better!”  that I use self-talk and refute the lie.  It sounds something like this “You will not always be fucked up.  Look at the progress you have made!”   I scoffed at this method for years.  However, between EMDR and self-talk amongst tons of support from friends and my awesome family, I would say I am 99% better.  I still have a lower tolerance for stress but I have learned to hang in there, breathe deeply and not to lash out at others in a crazy self-destructive way.  So, it is all good and my life is as normal as it has ever been…LOL.

Lori Goodwin’s quote rings true to me.  For years all I did was survive.  Survival is all you can do at many times on the road to healing.  Sometimes just surviving is a Herculean challenge.  However, I know consider myself not just a survivor but a warrior.  Warriors fight for people or causes.  My desire is to fight for those of us who are still just surviving. That is a hard desire to explain.  But, I want to let people know that they can conquer the damage, fear, and destruction that trauma and the resulting PTSD have caused.

I want people to know that they can get better.  Sometimes, people only get a little better.  Often times they experience an amazing degree of healing.  Before healing starts people first need to trust.  Trust is very difficult for folks with PTSD for obvious reasons. However, it is possible to trust again.  Maybe all you can do is trust someone or something or yourself 1% of the time.  That is OK, it is a start.  If you are suffering or know someone is trapped in the trauma prison know that you can get better.  The reason PTSD is referred to as a battle or a war is because it is hard as hell to break out of it and win your healing.  Also, we cannot heal ourselves.  We were hurt by people and healing will only come with proximity to and interaction with people.

Hang in there!  You are a survivor of the pain and horror that has claimed many of our fellow warriors.  FIGHT THE LIE! DON’T GIVE UP! CHOOSE TO TRUST SOMEONE.  There is hope and healing for you.

What PTSD Taught Me About Being Soft

“Softness is not weakness. It takes courage to stay delicate in a world this cruel.” T.C.

So, softness is not weakness.  Staying delicate takes courage.  I am not sure who said that originally but I am crediting it to Tommy Chong.  During this series on “What PTSD Has Taught Me” I have done lots of reflecting on the past.  Taking a look back at trauma is difficult.  All of the events that contributed to my PTSD are still in my memory banks.  They will never go away. I am, however able to look at them in the proper perspective.  It is my hope that people who are suffering from PTSD will be able to see that they are survivors!  I heard that for years.  In the midst of having active PTSD,  it is very difficult to believe that you are a survivor, but it is true.  Hang in there and you will see. Never give up.

One of the effects of and common behaviors of people suffering from trauma is to be hard, tough, ruthless, always vigilant, always hyper alert for danger and ready to kick some ass if necessary.  All of these behaviors are normal responses to trauma.  Who, in their right mind would not want to protect themselves after experiencing life-altering trauma?

When I was young I was a happy go lucky kid from southern California.  I was funny, friendly and looked at life as being full of great opportunities and adventure.  However, after my traumatic events, I changed.  I turned into a hyper-vigilant and paranoid man. My love of life had been replaced by anger, fear, and distrust.  I self-medicated with alcohol, pot, cocaine, speed, LSD, and opiates.  Man, I loved the poppy!  I was so angry at myself that I couldn’t stop stuffing substances in a trauma shaped hole that I just became sicker.  I did the best drugs man could make and yet I only got tempory relief from the demons in my head.  As Bono said, I was “stuck in a moment.”  Allow me to say I am not for one second down on people who are using substances to try to ease their pain.  Again, who could blame them?  I also believe (as science is showing us) that some substances, such as cannabis,  help people who suffer from PTSD very much.

I have always been to some extent “soft.”  What I mean by that is that is for my entire life I have been at heart a lover and not a fighter.  I have always desired to resolve issues by talking and not fighting.  I never looked at skills I learned in the army as necessarily good things just necessary.  I cry a lot.  It is easy to move my emotions.  I have never started a fight.  Getting revenge never sat well with me.  I have always been sympathetic to people and empathetic when possible.

I said all of that to say this: those so-called “soft” parts of me are the REAL me. I could have very easily ended the continual abuse I suffered by turning into a violent beast.  It is true.  My humanity stopped me from doing that.  I refused to act like an animal.  I was “soft” and now I glad I am!!!!

Keep fighting whatever the lie is that is torturing you!  Keep looking for people that will help you.  Nurture your “softness” it is what makes you human.


What PTSD Taught Me About Therapists Part 1

My last installment of this PTSD series looked at what I have learned about health care professionals in general and their knowledge or lack of knowledge about PTSD.  Today I want to look at what I have learned about really talented therapists.  Many of you have been to therapists with no results or, not the results and healing that you are seeking.  My hope is that this post will help in some way.  Don’t give up!  You can find a competent therapist to be your partner during your healing journey.  Remember, your therapist works for you.  He or she is an indispensable part of your healing, but you are the boss.  Many medicines are used to treat PTSD.  Antidepressants (Prozac), benzodiazepines (Valium), and mood stabilizers (Lamotrigine) are all used by doctors in their treatment of PTSD.  Medicine is only one tool that can be used to help treat PTSD.  However,  psychotherapy especially EMDR  is the most effective treatment for many if not most PTSD sufferers.  If you are not familiar with what EMDR is you can read this.

When choosing a therapist for PTSD I would like to make the following suggestions:

  1.  Select a therapist that specializes in PTSD.  Many therapists will list in their profile that they treat PTSD and trauma.  This may be true but finding one who does PTSD and EMDR as the majority of their practice is what you are looking for.  At one point in my journey I went to a therapist and during my intake, she stopped me and said she didn’t have enough experience to treat me.  She had PTSD and trauma listed as her specialties.  PTSD and EMDR treatment require more than a simple cursory understanding of the disorder.  Dr. Frank Ochberg is a pioneer in the treatment and causes of PTSD.  He is a rare mix of academic excellence, incredible warmth and compassion as well as the ability to help lay people understand the complexities of PTSD.  You can find many of his videos here.
  2. Select a therapist that you feel you can trust.  Sometimes, it is hard to know how you feel about a therapist because intake appointments are usually not enough time to form an opinion.  Use your gut feeling.  If the therapist seems rushed or perturbed with your desire to find out about their practice and experience than you can fire them.  Think of your initial appointment as an interview.  Ask questions of the therapist, read reviews online, talk to former or current patients. Schedule another appointment if you need to get a better feel of them.  Due diligence pays off.
  3.  Select a therapist that you can’t bull sh*t or intimidate. The fact of the matter is PTSD treatment involves visiting past traumatic events and trusting your therapist to push you and guide you when needed is essential.  A good therapist will work with you as memeber of your team.  Remember the treatment of PTSD is a difficult endeavor.  A good therapist will encourage you to be honest and brave in a compassionate and winsome manner.  I went to many therapists until I found one that was a good fit for me and my needs.  A good therapist also has to have your permission to push back a little when it is called for.  Again, experience and compassion are what you are looking for.



What PTSD Taught Me About Doc’s

PTSD taught me that many doctors and other health care professionals do not know much about such a common disorder/injury as PTSD.  I have spoken to and have been treated by M.D.’s, D.O.’s, psychologists,  and neurologists who have what I would call a beginner’s understanding of PTSD. I have even run into clinicians who have told me that it is a matter of simply pushing through the pain!  Not only is that view completely lacking compassion but it is incorrect.  On a personal note, I saw many psychiatrists and other professionals for 20 years.  I presented in an honest and forthright manner.  I was NEVER diagnosed with PTSD through all of those years.  My diagnosis was generally a severe case of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).  Many doctors know even less about effective treatment models.  I was speaking with a neurologist recently and this gentlemen didn’t know what EMDR was.  EMDR is the most effective treatment for PTSD.  My point is not to denigrate doctors it is to let you know that finding an experienced practitioner may take some investigating and trial and error.  Please don’t be discouraged.  Help is available and many people are willing to help.  Sometimes with PTSD, it is hard to reach out for help for many reasons.  Some of these reasons are fear of reliving the trauma, struggling with depression so you have no motivation to seek help, money, and often times shame.  If you are at a place where you think you may be ready to get treatment or simply talk to someone please do your best to reach out.  Let a trusted friend know what is going on and ask them for help.  If you can’t seem to find someone right now that can listen then please message me.  You are a survivor and you can find freedom from PTSD and it’s devastating effects.

What PTSD Has Taught Me

This series will take me some time to write.  My goal is to share with you a story that proves you can get better from PTSD.  There is no timeline that can tell you how long it will take to put your demons back in their cage.  There is no such thing as “normal” when dealing with this complex illness/injury we have.  If you are reading this as a someone who suffers from PTSD I want you to know that there is hope.  Healing can come in many ways.  Please don’t give up.  So many people care about you.  You may not feel loved and cared for but you are.  Be strong.  Fight the lie or lies that continually assault all of who you are.  Please don’t be ashamed.  You did not chose PTSD.  Take heart, in my experience fellow PTSD sufferers are survivors!  Please check back in or follow me to read future installments in this series.

Pot and PTSD

It is usually not my practice to  republish articles that others have written but Prakash Janakiraman has written a very educational and well-researched position paper for the Marijuana Times.  This article deals with the medical efficacy of cannabis for PTSD. I hope you enjoy it.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that occurs when an individual is exposed to one or more traumatic events such as sexual assault, combat, etc. PTSD is sometimes accompanied by other psychiatric disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder. PTSD patients suffer hyperarousal with insomnia, social isolation, negative flashbacks, avoidance and anxiety. Chronic, untreated PTSD leads to disrupted brain chemical turnover and the patient becomes hyper-responsive to stressors. PTSD patients may exhibit dissociative behaviors or arousal, emotional or dysphoric symptoms, or a combination.

PTSD affects approximately 8 million Americans per year and is particularly prevalent among war veterans and low-income individuals.

Currently, no effective, approved or specialized treatments are available for PTSD patients, and instead they are being treated with conventional psychiatric drugs. Recently, clinicians have slowly begun to realize the ill-effects of these drugs and also looking into research studies on how cannabis might help PTSD.

The Neurobiology of PTSD

The dysfunctional neurobiology of PTSD encompasses neurotransmitters’ imbalance, including noradrenergic and serotonergic mechanisms in addition to neuroanatomical disruptions. These pathobiological events contribute to dysregulation of the endocrine, cardiovascular, immune and autonomic nervous systems – which collectively leads to PTSD. Due to the involvement of multiple factors, PTSD patients present with a broad range of symptoms that further complicate the treatment approach.

Neuroimaging studies have elucidated the key role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the management of central neurobiological pathways. For example, CB1 receptors are upregulated and low CB1 receptor occupancy by anandamide is common in the amygdala-hippocampal-cortico-striatal neural circuits of PTSD patients. These events contribute to dysregulation of threat-related processing in response to previous traumatic exposure, resulting in a cascade of neurological changes and amygdala hyperresponsivity. These anomalies are responsible for increased vigilance or attention to trauma-related stimulation and hyperarousal, which are common in individuals with PTSD.

Exposure to stress events triggers certain neurons in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and also the release of the adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), and the latter stimulates the release of stress-causing corticosteroids (glucocorticoids). These hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis abnormalities deleteriously affect the brain and immune functions, as well as the brain’s ability to manage the stressors. Persistent release of corticosteroids leads to impaired hippocampal neurogenesis, reduced dendritic branching, behavioral problems, and addictive and memory disorders. Endogenous ECS signaling is critical for stress adaptation and intrinsic regulation of HPA axis.

Endocannabinoids and PTSD: Connecting the Dots

Physiologically, the endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in the function of the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in information processing, the subcortical arousal system and regulation of cholinergic inputs. The ECS may also be involved in the disruption of conditioned fear and facilitating adaptation to aversive situations. Modulation of hippocampal memory and plasticity via the ECS could be the best therapeutic option to treat PTSD.

Dysfunctional ECS architecture has been reported in depressive disorder patients with characteristic changes in CB1 receptors and its ligands.

Altered ECS signaling negatively affects the functions of the HPA axis. Although short-term HPA axis activation is beneficial to cope with stressors, persistent or long-term activation may lead to neuropsychiatric disorders with negative effects on metabolism, mood and cognition. Activation of cannabinoid receptors in the prefrontal complex could augment serotonergic neurotransmission and elicit antidepressant effects. Regulation of HPA output might be achieved by retrograde ECS signaling in the hypothalamus, and administration of cannabinoid ligands, such as phytocannabinoids, could activate the HPA axis indirectly by stimulating the noradrenergic and serotonergic neurotransmission. Phytocannabinoids act on both limbic and paralimbic centers, and reduce the activity of the hypothalamus and amygdala.

Higher rates of suicidal behavior have been reported in PTSD patients, which could be due to negative mood and anxiety. Researchers believe that altered G-protein signaling (CB1 receptor mediated) in the prefrontal cortex may contribute to the suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

We know that medical cannabis has antidepressant-like properties which may be useful for treating mood disorders, suicidal behaviors and PTSD. According to one report, reduction in frequency, severity of, and even complete cessation of suicidal behaviors were observed in most of the patients in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program for PTSD.

It is clear that the activation of the ECS contributes to the disruption of aversive memories, anxiety, and improves stress-coping behaviors and reactivity to threat signals. In this way, cannabinoids might help PTSD patients to effectively manage their symptoms, and also to prevent the relapse of symptoms, after exposure to a stressor or stressful event.

PTSD War Veterans

It’s no secret that many veterans return from war with PTSD, and many of them self-medicate with cannabis. Those who have a hard time getting access to cannabis may turn to alcohol and other illicit substances, despite knowing about their harmful effects. Unfortunately, the reality is that current rules governing Veterans Affairs stop doctors from prescribing medical cannabis to PTSD veterans.

If we look closely into the motives of cannabis use by PTSD vets in an unbiased manner, we can see the coping-oriented cannabis use to (self) treat fears, poor sleep quality, negative associative memories, emotions and anxieties.

Yes, cannabis does help to relieve depression and facilitate sleep onset in short-term users, but long-term abusers may suffer sleep disturbances. In low doses, cannabinoids could elicit anxiolytic effects through their effects on hippocampal memory and plasticity.

How Does Weed Help PTSD?

Research evidence points out the inverse relationship between the lower levels of anandamide and occurrence of PTSD.  In normal humans, the endocannabinoid (anandamide) activates the same receptors that are activated by phytocannabinoids. The underlying cause of PTSD is an endocannabinoid deficiency, in which the body lacks production of adequate levels of endocannabinoids to activate innate receptors that are associated with the regulation of mood perceptions, flashback memories, behaviors, metabolism and digestion. In such cases, medical cannabis comes into the play, binds with respective receptors and relieves the PTSD symptoms.

If we have normal CB1 receptor signaling, our brain has the ability to fade away all our traumatic memories, which we can consider as ‘gifted’ and beneficial forgetting. If we suffer impaired CB1 signaling or endocannabinoid deficiency, we are more prone to impaired fear extinction, negative or aversive and repetitive flashback memories with chronic anxiety, which are the cardinal features of PTSD. In response to, or to compensate for, the endocannabinoid deficiency, the body produces more endocannabinoid receptors, which actually have no agonists to bind with.

According to a Brazilian study, THC is more potent than CBD in attenuating fear memories. In combination, THC and CBD could potentially relieve PTSD symptoms with minimal – but very tolerable – side effects.

Emerging evidence has pointed out that CBD has the potential to treat neuropsychiatric disorders by interacting with serotonergic receptors and dopaminergic systems. A pre-clinical study found that cannabis treats these problems by influencing the nucleus accumbens VTA circuit of the mesolimbic system, which is responsible for positive neuronal and behavioral effects and also for the disruption of formation of negative associative memories. CBD achieve this via functional interaction with 5-HT1A receptor signaling mechanisms. However, the exact mechanism of emotional processing modulation is still unknown.

In an experimental induced-fear test, in which animals were previously exposed to painful sensation and potential electric shock, CBD-treated laboratory animals exhibited less stress when they were nearing the electric maze. This study demonstrated the fearful sensation alleviating benefit of CBD, which could be helpful in treating PTSD veterans who are exposed to life-threatening situations in battles.

Studies have suggested that THC-mediated activation of CB1 receptors present in the medial prefrontal cortex could lead to memory reactivation or retrieval. However, CBD could counter this effect as well as other negative psychotropic effects of THC, and help to effectively manage PTSD symptoms. Even in sub-effective doses, a combination of THC and CBD could mitigate dysfunctional aversive and fear memories, locomotor activity and anxiety-related behaviors.

Phytocannabinoids are also helpful for treating alcoholism, which is highly common in PTSD patients. A patient survey study found that PTSD patients prefer cannabis over alcohol and other illicit substances because the side effects are minimal and temporary.

Medical cannabis use tends to reduce aggressive behaviors, which is also common in PTSD patients. Additionally, these patients report significant reductions in anger and irritability. Cannabis strains containing both THC and CBD in equal ratios may prevent psychotic-like behaviors.


Even with co-occurring psychiatric illnesses, cannabis treats PTSD by influencing the neurobiological pathways and modulating the neurotransmitters, bringing these anomalies back to normalcy. Due to Schedule I classification and legal barriers in conducting controlled clinical trials, treatment safety information is still lacking.

It could be a decade or more before we see the FDA’s approval of cannabis-based drugs for the treatment of PTSD. With the mounting evidence, psychiatrists and clinicians should recommend this simple solution for PTSD management, at least in states where marijuana is currently legal.

This article is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information, not to provide medical advice.