How Does Stellate Ganglion Block Treatment For PTSD Work?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disrupts the lives of roughly twelve million people in the U.S. each year. Commonly associated with veterans, PTSD affects individuals from all walks of life who have experienced traumatic events that they could not entirely process. People struggling with PTSD may see their relationships, career, and home life decline as their stressors interfere with everyday activities and avoiding their triggers removes more and more options from their lives. 

Those suffering from anxiety, when it’s severe enough, have similar difficulties. Anxiety derails millions of lives, affecting 6.8 million in the U.S. alone. For both of these individuals, stellate ganglion block (SGB) treatment may be an option worth exploring.

What Is a Stellate Ganglion Block?

During an SGB treatment, a local anesthetic is injected into the stellate ganglion, temporarily numbing the nerves and disrupting their ability to send signals. This can provide relief from the symptoms of conditions like migraines, cluster headaches, and trigeminal neuralgia. This procedure is usually done without the need for sedation and takes less than 30 minutes to complete, after which the patient is monitored for 30 minutes prior to leaving. 

Stellate Ganglion Block for PTSD and Anxiety

The stellate ganglion is a bundle of nerves located in the neck midway between the head and collarbone. These nerves are part of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response, and have been implicated in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

When the stellate ganglion is activated, it triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body for emergency situations, but can also cause inflammation. In people with PTSD and anxiety, the inflammation causes the nerves to be overactive, constantly firing, leading to a chronic and situationally disproportionate stress.

By injecting a local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion, practitioners can temporarily numb or disable these nerves and provide relief from the symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. Essentially, when the fight-or-flight response is suppressed, it allows the brain to enter into a “rest and digest” state, an automatic response that notifies the body when it is safe to relax and heal.

In other words, SGB treatment allows the brain to take a break from the constant, unpredictable stress signals and get the time to “reset” and start functioning properly again. The result is a significant reduction in PTSD and anxiety symptoms, with clinical trials yielding an 83% success rate in the reduction of symptoms. The relief provided by an SGB treatment typically lasts for up to six weeks. If necessary, repeated treatments can be administered to maintain symptom relief.

Like other PTSD and anxiety treatments, SGB may not work for everyone, so keep an open mind and be ready to explore other options if it doesn’t work for you.

Is Stellate Ganglion Block Safe?

SGB treatment has a longstanding safety profile in the treatment of severe pain in the upper body. The procedure is minimally invasive and carries very few risks or side effects. The most common side effect of SGB treatment is temporary bruising or soreness at the injection site. Some people may also report experiencing:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Tingling in the arms
  • Tearing of the eye

These side effects are often mild and typically resolve within a few hours or days after treatment.

Who Is A Candidate For Stellate Ganglion Block Treatment?

If you have PTSD or anxiety that has not responded well to other treatments, you may be a candidate for SGB treatment. To be eligible for the procedure, you will need to undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified professional to ensure that SGB treatment is right for you.

If it’s determined that you’re a good candidate for SGB treatment, the next step is to find a qualified medical professional who specializes in the procedure. While any pain management physician or anesthesiologist can perform the injection, it is important to find someone with experience in treating PTSD and anxiety with SGB.

Emerging evidence also suggests that SGB may relieve prolonged parosmia caused by Covid-19. Parosmia is a distorted sense of smell. Causes include bacterial or viral infections, head trauma, neurological conditions and COVID-19. Parosmia is usually temporary, but in some cases, it’s permanent.  Though more trials are needed, the anecdotal evidence is strong, and the clinical studies conducted have offered promising results with statistically significant findings. 

Final Thoughts

If you are living with PTSD or chronic anxiety and have not responded well to traditional treatments such as medication and therapy, stellate ganglion block (SGB) treatment may be an option worth exploring with your doctor. Although more research is needed to determine the long-term efficacy and potential side effects (if any) of SGB, there is powerful evidence that it can provide substantial relief for people with PTSD and anxiety.

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Is OCD Hereditary?

OCD has a complex etiology, meaning several factors are involved in its development. But one of the most evident patterns is familial aggregation, suggesting that the condition may have a genetic component. So, can OCD be passed down family lines?

What is OCD?

OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a mental disorder that causes people to experience persistent, distressing thoughts, mental images, or urges (obsessions) and engage in repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions).

For example, someone with OCD may have a crippling fear of germs and feel compelled to obsessively wash their hands repetitively or wipe surfaces multiple times a day to avoid contamination.

People with OCD often realize that their thoughts and behaviors are irrational, but they cannot seem to help it. As a result, OCD can be very debilitating and can interfere with a person’s ability to function in daily life. 

The Link Between OCD and Genetics

There is a strong familial link between OCD and other psychiatric disorders, which shows that genetics play a role, at least in part, in the development of OCD. Studies have shown that first-degree relatives (children and siblings) of people with OCD are up to five times more likely to develop OCD than the general population.

Genetic studies have also identified several different genes and gene variations that may underlie the development of OCD. However, it is essential to remember that genes are just one piece of the puzzle and don’t necessarily cause OCD on their own. Rather, they may make a person more vulnerable to developing OCD or other psychiatric disorders in the presence of certain environmental and biological factors.

Other risk factors linked to the development of OCD include differences in brain structure and functionality, childhood trauma, extreme stress, or other mental illnesses.

Treating OCD Symptoms

If you or someone you know is showing signs of OCD, it is crucial to seek professional help as soon as possible. A trained mental health professional can perform a conclusive evaluation and diagnosis and devise a personalized treatment plan.

Ketamine infusions have the possibility to provide rapid symptom relief to OCD patients. An open Ketamine trial done in 2012 for subjects with OCD found significant improvement in OCD symptoms. Latest research suggests relief within 10 minutes of a Ketamine infusion and a complete stop to obsessions up to 30-minutes post-infusion.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating OCD, but most treatment plans will likely include a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and self-care. OCD is a long-term condition, and the goal of treatment is to help people manage the symptoms and minimize their impact on day-to-day life.

The Bottom Line

While the exact cause of OCD is not yet fully understood, research suggests genetic predisposition plays a huge role in its development, with nearly 50 percent of OCD cases having a familial link.

However, having a close relative with OCD does not necessarily mean developing the disorder yourself. Some people may even develop OCD without any family history of the condition whatsoever.

If you are concerned about your risk of developing OCD, talk to a mental health professional who can help you assess the situation and provide guidance on how to best protect and preserve your mental wellness.

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What Are PTSD Flashbacks?

As a military veteran who saw combat, you’re still unnerved at the sound of July fourth fireworks or jet engines wailing overhead. You instinctively hold your breath for a moment as your heart races, but the anxiety eventually fades. Some people who live through severe trauma aren’t so lucky and have intense flashbacks of what happened – a key symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness caused by a frightening event you experienced or witnessed. If you’ve lived through a traumatic event, you may have short-term problems learning to adjust and coping with what happened, but in time you’ll usually get better. But not everyone can manage the symptoms. If they worsen, persist for months or years after the event, and cause disruptions in daily life, you may have PTSD.

Know the Symptoms

PTSD symptoms are divided into four types: avoidance, intrusive memories, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms vary by person and over time, and in frequency and intensity.

  • Recurrent, unwelcome upsetting memories of what happened
  • Avoiding places, activities, or people who remind you of the traumatic experience
  • Bad thoughts about yourself, others, or society
  • Pessimism about the future
  • Being easily alarmed or frightened
  • Self-destructive tendencies
  • Problems sleeping

How to Manage Flashbacks and Other PTSD Symptoms

For many people with PTSD, flashbacks – relieving the trauma like it was happening again – are one of the most potent and disturbing symptoms of the illness you can have. Flashbacks may signify dissociation, where a person feels disconnected from emotions, identity, memory, and thoughts of themselves and the real world. The danger, however, lies in the fact that flashbacks are always trauma-related and intense to the point of near disability. For instance, a soldier who faced combat may have flashbacks of a deadly battle at the sound of firecrackers simulating a gunshot.

But flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms, as severe as they may be, can be managed. Many people have success with different self-help and coping mechanisms.

  • According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “Deep breathing can help you cope with the stress” traumatic events, acting as a defense against panic, anxiety, or hypervigilance.
  • The VA also touts to benefits of progressive muscle relaxation and offers a brief how-to guide for anyone experiencing flashbacks or other PTSD symptoms.
  • Mindfulness meditation is more than just closing your eyes and sitting with crossed legs. The U.S. National Institutes of Health reported that meditation, as well as mindfulness-based stress relief and other strategies, may relieve symptoms including avoidance, emotional numbing, guilt, hyperarousal, and negative emotions like shame.
  • Self-monitoring.
  • Social support.
  • Healthy emotional expression. Many people with PTSD benefit from keeping journals or writing about their emotions and reactions to everyday life since the trauma happened. It helps them control their own narrative. Another way to express their emotions is through art therapy.
  • Mental distractions.
  • Behavioral activation is a way for people with flashbacks and other symptoms to boost their activity level plus engage in positive and rewarding activities.
  • Exercise and physical activity are positive ways for someone to knock down barriers linked to PTSD, giving them power over the lingering effects of anxiety and depression.
  • Aroma therapy.
  • Pet therapy. Some people consider their canine partners to be a man’s best friend, and there’s a reason for that. A dog’s natural ability to sense human emotions – stress, fear, grief, sadness, anger – is legendary. Leah Blain, Ph.D., clinic director and licensed clinical psychologist at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Psychiatry, said canine companionship is a successful, complementary treatment for someone with PTSD.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you have flashbacks or other symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • A physical examination to confirm or rule out a medical problem that may be causing the symptoms or making them worse.
  • A psychiatric assessment looks at symptoms and the event that led to them. Your healthcare provider will also ask about personal and family history of mental illness.

Finally, your symptoms will be compared to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria before a formal diagnosis.

Ask About Treatment from a Specialty Clinic

Besides self-help and other strategies, your healthcare provider may recommend ongoing psychotherapy plus medicine like antidepressants. In some cases, you may benefit from ketamine infusion therapy available at specialty clinics nationwide.

What Is Depression Journaling?

No matter the severity, depression can lead to several physical and mental health issues if left untreated. While many people try to soothe symptoms through medication, traditional psychotherapy, or alternative medicine, there are a few “at home” treatments that stand the test of time: journaling. 

What To Know About Depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a widespread and significant medical illness that adversely affects your feelings, thoughts, and how you behave. Thankfully, it can be treated. If you’re depressed, you know that it causes sadness and/or loss of interest in something you used to enjoy doing. Even worse, it can trigger a range of emotional and physical difficulties and can reduce your ability to perform at work and at home.

Depression Symptoms

  • Constant sadness, anxiety, or low moods
  • Feelings of despair or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • You feel guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Slow bodily movements or speech
  • Restlessness or problems sitting still
  • Trouble focusing, remembering, or decision making 
  • Problems sleeping, waking early, or oversleeping
  • Hunger and/or weight fluctuations
  • Thinking of death, suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches, pains, headaches, spasms, or gastrointestinal difficulties absent a clear physical reason and/or symptoms that don’t ease even with care

What Causes Depression?

No one knows for certain what causes depression, but some factors are known to contribute.

  • Constant exposure to stress, neglect, abuse, violence, or poverty.
  • If you have a biological relative with depression, or you’re twin sibling has the condition, you have a greater chance of getting the illness at some point.
  • Personality traits like low self-esteem, becoming easily overcome by stress, or constant pessimism may trigger depression.

What Is Depression Journaling?

“Back in the day,” your parents or grandparents may have kept a secret diary – a tiny, sometimes leatherbound tablet where they jotted down their struggles, fears, desires, and daily observations without fear of judgment or punishment. Every day or as often as time allowed, they’d scribble a few lines then hide their diary someplace safe – under a mattress, high on a closet shelf, or anywhere secure from prying eyes. Many such examples have been lost to time and posterity, but the tradition of journaling continues to this very day. Much of it happens in a digital world, but the goals are the same.

With the rise in mental health issues, many people have turned to “depression journaling,” maybe out of curiosity or a concerted effort to improve their life. Journaling allows you to express frustration, stress, depression, and fear in a safe, healthy manner.

The benefits of depression journaling

  • Improves your mental health
  • Creates a positive outlook on life
  • Helps manage anxiety and lower stress
  • Helps cope with depression
  • Helps you track daily symptoms so that you can identify triggers and discover means to better manage them
  • Gives you a chance for positive self-talk and recognize bad thoughts and behaviors
  • It may put a positive spin on your mood
  • Improves your sense of well-being
  • Journaling may lower symptoms of depression prior to an important event, like a big test at school first date, or work presentation
  • It can help lower intrusion and avoidance symptoms following a traumatic situation
  • Journaling may improve your memory function

How to be effective at depression journaling

  • Keep a daily schedule.
  • Keep it simple. Use pen and paper, smartphone, or tablet computer, or just grab a crumpled store receipt and write down your feelings.
  • Write or draw whatever comes to mind. Your feelings are your own, so express them.
  • Use your journal however you want, and it doesn’t have to be shared.

Diagnosing & Treating Depression

Your doctor may make a depression diagnosis based on:

  • A physical examination to look for an underlying physical health problem.
  • Lab tests, like a blood test called a complete blood count or testing your thyroid to ensure it’s working properly.
  • A psychiatric evaluation focusing on symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire to help answer these questions.
  • Compare your symptoms to criteria for depression listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Follow-up care may involve psychotherapy, medicine, or newer treatments like ketamine infusion therapy.

Final Thoughts

Depression is a huge source of disability worldwide, affecting nearly 300 million people across all walks of life. If you suffer from any of its symptoms, you may be able to find effective treatment through traditional psychotherapy, antidepressants, medicine like ketamine, or journaling for depression. But the choice is yours. Contact us today at Ketamine & Infusion Clinic of South Florida for more information.