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Alan G. TMS and PTSD

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Jan 2, 2016.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Is there a relationship between PTSD and TMS? How does one distinguish if they have one or the other or both?

    Thank you very much,
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi Kelle,

    I'm not sure I explicitly realized it until just now, but in some sense, TMS is the consequence of PTSD.

    Let's say for instance that you grew up with a dad who's a rageaholic, or a mother who's really anxious, or a brother who's physically abusive. Through repeated exposure to these threatening stimuli, the primitive brain comes to believe that the world isn't safe, and you find yourself living in a state of fight or flight, finding fears everywhere, scanning the environment for threats. This is PTSD; maybe not the formal diagnosis with the nightmares and flashes and symptoms along those lines, but a dysfunctional way of existing as a result of repeated trauma.

    TMS, or psychogenic pain, is an evolutionary autonomic response that serves to warn us of a perceived threat (google "Lorimer Moseley" and "snake bite" for a more elaborate example of this...) When someone inherently feels safe in the world, psychogenic pain passes once the threat is removed, but for those that are chronically hypervigilant, our primitive brain believes that we are constantly subjected to threats, and these symptoms can become chronic.

    Everyone with TMS has PTSD (to some degree) as PTSD is a necessary prerequisite to developing hypervigilance, and hypervigilance is at the root of all TMS symptoms.


    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
  3. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    To me they are all the same. They all started with our negative emotions, negative experience, traumas... They are just different forms of our mind's expression when we are subject to extreme or chronic "negative" thoughts/emotions. Doctors gave different label depending on symptoms. Fibromyalgia, CFS, IBS, TMS, back pain, knee pain, insomnia...... and thousand others. All of these started due to something negative happened in our life and all of them can be rid of in pretty much the same way. Whatever we labeled them, they are all Mind body syndromes and it would benefit us to think of them all as tms or anxiety.
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Interesting. Hadn't thought of it this way before. Thanks.
  5. Crissyxox

    Crissyxox Peer Supporter

    Yes. I agree entirely with Alan. My doctor who is unfamiliar with tms (but very receptive) connected it to PTSD. I guess that may be exactly what I am experiencing (as Alan describes it).

    Great discussion. I should add I'm getting better everyday. I'm developing a new way to retrain my body to not be so on guard of threats constantly and live in the moment.

    Sienna likes this.
  6. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hey Crissy,
    Great response. Can you elaborate on what you've done to retrain your mind and body to not be so on guard to threats? Teaching the primitive brain that you're safe is the goal, but it's always helpful to learn different techniques that people use to work toward that goal.

  7. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Alan, thank you for this brilliant post. To me it explains the true epidemic of serious TMS symptoms among so many young people. I was 60 years old before my TMS symptoms reached a crisis point, and I'm dismayed by the number of young members we have who have already reached a crisis with their symptoms.

    I have already wondered if this might relate to the way that so many children have been raised in the last few decades. Your example of someone who is raised by an anxious parent is really key, I think, because while we here easily recognize the repression that results from abuse and neglect, we don't generally think of an anxious and protective parent as fostering dysfunction in the child - but in fact that is a very predictable result. And that anxiety grows as parents become ever-more fearful of the things that their child might be exposed to. It's a vicious cycle, I'm afraid.

    Bookmarking this one!
  8. Crissyxox

    Crissyxox Peer Supporter

    Awwww. Thanks Alan. Well a big part of building these strategies has been working with a tms therapist who is trained to help me recognize fight or flight/anxiety (which often tried to cover up emotion and maybe more importantly covering up my emotions with behaviours (smiling as a coping strategy or trick to outwardly disguise discomfort).

    Another huge strategy for me is recognizing when I'm in fight or flight and replacing the destructive behaviours (cleaning or making things that are uncertain certain) with utilizing either self love strategies to support myself through it or acknowledge and accept that that's just where I am and that's okay. Accepting just what I'm giving myself or feeling without too much judgment has been big for me.

    Another thing is working through the fear. And accepting that there is nothing actually wrong with me but then!!!!!!! Retraining those neural pathways by replacing that thought pattern with new behaviours (doing that physical movement anyways because I'm just fine)

    I had a huge moment this week where I realized that success for me isn't measured by how often I'm feeling in fight it flight or feeling pain etc but it's measured by what I do when that happens. Every time I feel those things it's a great opportunity for me to practice that so now they just don't scare me the same.

    I have a long way to go but I've come super far and happy about that. I've challenged myself and celebrated huge successes! (Like holding my son and returning to work!)

    I think that was rather long winded...hopefully I answered your question...

    Yinlin, Ellen and JanAtheCPA like this.
  9. Dexy

    Dexy Peer Supporter

    I absolutely love this and am also working diligently on adjusting my "TMS Success Barometer" from "How good did I do at eliminating my symptoms today?" to "How good did I do at reacting to my symptoms today?" It's a a subtle but very powerful shift that I am confident will serve us both very well!
    JanAtheCPA and North Star like this.
  10. Crissyxox

    Crissyxox Peer Supporter

    Yes! I love how you framed that Dexy. Very powerful indeed.
    Dexy likes this.
  11. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    What a great thread! Alan, I loved what you had to say. And Crissy, thanks for asking such a great answer and contributing your strategies on destructive behaviors. (I really get the trying to turn uncertainty into certainty. Another way to spell c-o-n-t-r-o-l.) Loved what you had to say too, Dexy.
    Dexy likes this.
  12. mdh157

    mdh157 Well known member

    "Hypervigilance"............that's my middle name, unfortunately. I find myself often easily preoccupied with any feeling that I don't perceive as normal, of which there are many.
  13. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member

    I hear ya it's difficult to do but with constant practice you will not care
    mdh157 likes this.

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