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PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Tsao-Lin Moy



What is post-traumatic stress or post-traumatic stress syndrome? Like what does it look like from a Chinese medicine lens? Right. We’re going to cover what it is, what is pandemic fatigue recognizing and treating it in our patients and also recognizing it in ourselves.

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Disclaimer: The following is an actual transcript. We do our best to make sure the transcript is as accurate as possible, however, it may contain spelling or grammatical errors.  Due to the unique language of acupuncture, there will be errors, so we suggest you watch the video while reading the transcript.

No. Hello and welcome. And I’d like to thank the American Acupuncture Council for, uh, putting these talks on, on these platforms of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and so many more. Um, my name is Tsao-Lin Moy. I am an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner with a brick and mortar practice in New York city union square. And so today we’re going to be talking about post-traumatic stress disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome. And so we’ll go to the slides. Okay. What is post-traumatic stress or post-traumatic stress syndrome? Like what does it look like from a Chinese medicine lens? Right. We’re going to cover what it is, uh, what is pandemic fatigue recognizing and treating it in our patients and also recognizing it in ourselves. And then I’ll go over a few tips, uh, and, uh, treatment strategies that you can use with your patients and also to, for yourself. Right.

Um, so what is post-traumatic stress disorder? Well, it is defined as a psychiatric disorder. They can occur in people who’ve experienced or witnessed trauma events, such as natural disasters like Katrina or Sandy. Uh, what we’re seeing right now, a serious accident, a terrorist attack, war violence of physical violence, sexual violence. And this is based on, um, the American psychiatric associations definition. Right now we’re looking at seven to 8% of the us population, uh, will have, uh, post-traumatic stress at some point in their lives. Hey Cindy. Um, and 3.6% of us adults each year, um, are diagnosed with it. It’s a particular diagnosis, but we have to look at what happens before you get the diagnosis, right? Um, and, and then this case twice as many, it’s twice as high for women and also, you know, for teens. And we see a lot of that going on right now.

Um, this diagnosis requires exposure to an upsetting traumatic event. It’s often associated with something called combat fatigue, and a lot of veterans have this, and this is a statistic, 23% of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, um, are, have been diagnosed with PTSD or PTSS, uh, 30% of veterans from Vietnam. And this is something that is continuing to, to grow. And it’s something that’s really important that we start to address and can be addressed really well with acupuncture and Chinese medicine. And so here quick, there is an opportunity for us as Chinese medicine practitioners to really be of service. So what is this in the PTSD or PTSS is a form of Shen disturbance, right? And Shen is the idea of this dynamic interplay of the five mental and spiritual aspects of ourselves. These are housed in, we called the zone or the yin organs and are expressed in the form of our emotions.

Um, I’m not going to go over what the emotions are because I know all of you, um, have learned this in foundations, right? Um, but this is also sign when someone is experiencing something like post-traumatic stress, it’s a sign that the Shen is disturbed and is not going back into a state of balance. So there’s something that is preventing the natural inclination to move towards homeostasis. And this is through, this could be a physical experience or something emotional. Although I say everything we experience is in our body. So there is the we address what is the physical right? Um, so when the Shen is in order, the person’s ability to navigate the world with resilience and cultivate health and wellness is achieved. So it’s not to say that we don’t get upset and it’s not to say that we don’t get stressed and really stressed what’s happening is, is that the inability to self-regulate has been disrupted at a very deep level.

What we also are looking at is something called pandemic fatigue. And I put this in here because over time, us as practitioners and we see it with physicians, um, we are experiencing a situation in which we have to be vigilant all the time that we’re helping people. And we have all of these health issues that are really focused on staying healthy. And so what happens is, is we start to get really exhausted just from the situation. So as an acupuncturist, Chinese medicine practitioner, as practitioners, we’re also healers. So I want to put this forward. We’re not just, you know, mechanical and we work with energy medicine and the energy of others. So what’s really important is that we have to take care of ourselves. Um, and, uh, what we recommend to our patients is also that we need to really like look at, to do for ourselves. And oftentimes we forget, yeah.

Need to be the model. So what do we know for sure about, uh, PTSD and PTSS, all it’s kidney and heart liver and spleen. These are really, uh, two things that I’ve seen and witnessed. Um, there are many more, um, combinations, but with something like, uh, post-traumatic stress, stress plays such a major role. And it, by tapping into our adrenals, it affects the kidney cheat and the shock trauma affects the kidney essence affecting the brains. We look at the brain is an extension, the brain, uh, the spinal cord and the brain are really part of the kidney essence. And then in turn that brain and mind, you think the mind is housed in the heart, but also the extension goes through that physical the brain as well. So we look at the emotional disturbance, the chemical shifting, uh, PTSD and PTSS is not just a simple heart and a kidney heart disharmony, but it also involves a multitude of the symptoms.

So it really important when a and what I’m talking about is very specifically, we can recognize that the, the adrenals and the stress are, are really at the root of it, but then what’s happening. Is that the way it manifests starts to affect all different other parts of our body. And then we look constitutionally of the individual and also what their history is and then how that plays a role. And so though we may see all this in our patients, right? We can see like, oh, this person has this happening and that happening. We oftentimes are missing it in ourselves and we end up burning ourselves out.

So one of the things about PTSD and PTSS is that it changes our brain and body chemistry. So these changes result in the overstimulation, and this is Western stuff, the amygdala, which is that emotional survival response, the underactive aspect of the, which is the hippocampus, the hippocampus, uh, that what is an increases in stress hormones, and that affects our ability to move forward. So we often get these flashbacks, it affects the kind of memory aspect, and also in, um, it’s ineffective, we call the ineffective variability, which means that there are elevated stress hormones, and those interfere with self-regulation and we get the systemic decline. So we’re looking at, there’s an inability for the body to actually go into the parasympathetic, which is the rest and digest. And if we look at that from a Chinese medicine, we’re looking at the body needs to have the yin and the yang, right. And if we can’t go into the time of kind of cooling down and resting, then what happens is we’re always more young and more manic and we get this exhaustion.

So some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress or post-traumatic stress syndrome are that these intrusive thoughts, worry, repeating thoughts. Uh, I look at distressing dreams that tells me a little bit more, that there’s like a liver thing, uh, flashbacks, um, you know, even feeling that, you know, they, people that they feel they’re reliving something, right. Uh, or in this case, what I look at, like I put in my notes communing with spirits, because you’re actually kind of involved in a situation that may be in the past and there isn’t really a person there, but you’re engaging, right. And this is really, you start to engage, let’s say the spirit world. Um, the other thing is avoidance avoiding reminders of an event, what to drawing from people or places and activities, um, avoid thinking about an event, not sharing feelings, right. And then there’s an aspect that I put in here too, is toxic positivity.

Um, or we, we also call it spiritual bypass is another term. And that is, is that everything’s great. Everything’s wonderful. Um, or towards others, we can be this way when they’re sharing their feelings, that we kind of tell them, oh, look on the bright side. Right. And, and this is, uh, also like something that we have to look at within ourselves that maybe we’re avoiding those difficult conversations and being able to get present. Right. And that’s something as a practitioner that, uh, kind of checking out is, is going to be also kind of a sign that we’re in this stress situation ourselves. Um, we look at alteration in cognition and mood, so negative thoughts and feelings, a lot of pessimism, um, you know, distorted beliefs, right. And also detaching from others, um, alteration in arousal and reactivity. So we start to look at reckless behavior, um, emotional outbursts, self-destructive behaviors, um, more vigilance, a lot of sleep problems.

And one of the things, uh, across the board, which I’ve noticed is that, um, people have had problems with sleep. Uh, so here is a little infographic of, you know, some of the things that people are experiencing, a lot of emotional, you know, outbursts, uh, frustration overwhelm, uh, just that feeling of, uh, not being able to deal with anything. And again, uh, what I do want to say is this is normal. We’re in, when you’re in a situation which is extreme in which we are in, in the way that we are now, there’s an aspect of self preservation and coping.

Now, sometimes this coping mechanism to the stress trauma is not necessarily beneficial over the long period, right? So the discomfort of trauma triggers our coping mechanisms from a state of fight or flight or freeze, right. In an effort to dull the pain to run away and to numb it. So examples of this are a lot of stress eating, a lot of junk food. So binging on junk food, like a lot of comfort food. Um, and this is something where with a, if somebody has this propensity, we’re looking at the day underlying, maybe have before, even a little stomach and spleen imbalance. Um, then we look at alcohol addiction, a lot of the addiction to medications now during the pandemic. And, uh, well, we’re still in it, uh, that in February, from February 15th to March 15th, 2020, there was like a 67% increase or 38, but I’m not to like look at the stats, um, in, uh, the prescription for anti-anxiety medication.

Right. And so that is a lot of these benzos do have addictive properties, but we, we, we need to cook to cope. There was also a study of an increase in alcohol use of new moms or women with children under the age of five. And so we start to look at, you know, how is somebody coping? And really this is a kind of medicine that, uh, you know, people are searching for. What do they know? Right. In other cases, there’s an increase in violence and angry outbursts. Now this, we look at liver gallbladder issues, right? Like any kind of, any kind of emotion that we’re unable to express is going to actually show up eventually in the form of some kind of stagnation, um, heat, inflammation, and anger, right. And also this is very normal, you know, we’re in situation, that’s very frustrating. The problem then becomes later on when we can’t get out of it.

And that becomes the pattern. Uh, the other thing is, is that if there is an underlying trauma that wasn’t resolved and that all also shows up a lot, when people come in for acupuncture and Chinese medicine, right, they they’ve tried other things and something is not working that there, the longer that they’ve had this experience, that the emotions and there’s much more going on then, um, that let’s say their initial accident, right. There’s more emotion that stuck with it. And then that is also hooking in and later on, that can show up. Uh, one of the, the activities also is extreme prepping, hoarding, food, toilet paper, um, exercising and dieting. Uh, we saw a lot of that. Uh, this is, uh, goes along lung and large intestine kind of controlling, right. Hoarding, controlling that metal energy, uh, another disassociation kind of checking out. And this is kind of like the Shen has gone to walk in and say, we want someone like, how are you doing?

Oh, I’m fine. Really in all this chaos, uh, it’s actually important that someone, you know, kind of acknowledges that things, you know, things are difficult and they’re getting through it. But the response that I’m fine is kind of really like, uh, I don’t know, uh, to me that says something like, Hmm, I don’t know, avoidance, uh, susceptibility to conspiracy theories like aliens and chip devices. So this is also a small intestine we’re looking at really, uh, inability to shift from what’s clear and unclear. Right? And that, that also ties into also fear. You know, when there’s a lot of fear of the unknown what’s going to happen is it’s going to trigger many different responses within, um, within ourselves and in our patients that then they can become very susceptible to things that, you know, something that they might’ve thought Ben seems to become a reality. And again, this is part of, um, not being so present, but actually, uh, going somewhere else, right. In terms of what, what is happening.

So do you know anybody that’s hoarding toilet paper? This was actually one of the responses that helped, uh, people to feel they’re in control that they’re actually doing something. So when someone starts hoarding or having certain kinds of behavior, it is a coping mechanism. It’s a, it’s a way for them to feel in control. And does this kind of like look at, uh, you know, what’s going on for that person. So they may, they may not say it, but, uh, this is like an indication that, you know, something may be gone, something else may be going on. Um, and so you’ll go, so why topic? Well, the topic is because if we don’t already have a form of this, post-traumatic stress, we’re on track to getting it because we’re living through very challenging and chaotic times much of which we have no control over. We’re witnessing a lot of death, uh, climate change, disasters, fires, flooding, and, um, the ravages of war and politics, having our lives up ended and having to pivot now.

And also what I want to say is the news cycles and social media, right? So much of the, the, the definition that was in one of the earlier slides about, you know, reliving, traumatic events, um, thoughts over and over again, that what’s happening is, is in our news cycles. We’re actually kind of seeing the same thing over and over and over again. So as an individual who might, who’s resilient, um, it’s hard to manage your thoughts when you keep getting exposed to social media. And so one of the things that I suggest, or the news, right, the news, the news likes to, um, be sensational in order to get the call it clickbait to get clicks. Uh, but what happens is, is that once you kind of see it, it’s very hard to unsee it and it taps into our other than conscious, right. And it kind of like works up, works us over.

And so really important is to clear the cookies on your electronic devices. So, and be careful of what you’re searching for, right? Because then all of a sudden you’re going to get a lot of that content. So the symptoms of, uh, PTSD PTSS Shen disturbance are a Shen disturbance and they reflect this disruption of the function of definitely the liver, you know, cause maintaining that free flow of Chi because when she and blood are in harmony, the mind is also at ease. And so this is also an indication of like where you want to look to when you can, you want to treat and help someone. Um, kidney essence is being drained. We know cause the brain, um, part of the brain is being affected. Um, there’s also that deficiency of heart blood, uh, people experiencing a lot of palpitations. Um, I, I highlighted or bolded insomnia because that is really like a big thing that, um, people are experiencing, um, both with a hyperactivity of heart fire on the mental restlessness.

Um, the, the issues are, if you’re not getting sleep and again, that’s that rest and digest, it is going to affect your information. And it’s also going to affect your mind. Right? Poor sleep is attributed to memory loss and long-term illness like dementia and Alzheimer’s. And if patients, one of the things that, uh, to look at, if your patients are not responding to treatment, uh, as you would say, Hmm, there’s something else going on. They’re not really healing. Then you have to really look at there’s something more and to look at the emotional component to being addressed.

So treatment strategies really need to address, uh, the stress cycle. Okay. So got a question about sleeping as a coping mechanism, right? Yes. Is like to get sleep, but you know, if there’s too much sleep, what can happen is that’s also like a kind of adrenal fatigue, right? Like all of a sudden, boom, somebody has been overstressed like with chronic fatigue or with fibromyalgia that they’re just, their energy is shocked, right? So adrenal, adrenal fatigue, or when your adrenals are shot, you’ll also like sleep a lot. But the key thing is, is that, are you getting a restful sleep, right? Because if you’re not waking up, uh, refreshed, then we also know you’re not getting those deeper levels of sleep. And that means you’re only get your cycles are off. Uh, and also like too long being asleep is also, you do build up a toxicity, right?

So over 10 hours of sleep is not better. There, there is that window of sleep. So sleeping is great. Uh, but also you want to get quality sleep, which means that your nervous system goes into that yin aspect. Right. Uh, so treatment strategies, well, I like the ear acupuncture and ear seeds, right? A lot of research in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, um, in, in, uh, is being used in the military. Right. And also used in addiction. And the beauty of either ear acupuncture or ear seeds is that they’re very simple. Right. And I like you put in some ears seeds and the patient can actually stimulate them, uh, points that I suggested, like Shen men, zero points sympathetic, then you can decide liver lung, like add a few other ones based on what you’re seeing in that patient. Right. Ear seeds are excellent because then later on they can, the patient can press them.

Uh, I’ve also used like the little, uh, the hand, uh, magnets, the Korean hand magnets, I guess they will. And on something like PC six, because not only does that help with anxiety and nausea, right. It’s easy for someone to access and, and to do right. So important that you’re going to give your patients some things that they can do on their own. Right. Because that is something that allows them to be in control. Right. And to be aware of that, they need to address their stress and you, and you give them resources. Moxibustion um, I actually prefer in these cases, moxa to needling, right. So if somebody is pretty startled and they’re, they’re overstimulated that you really want to cut there, there’ve been drained. You kind of want to add in something. And so a little bit of moxa, um, and less needling, right.

Cause then you’re piercing their, their defense. Right. And then that could be even like too much for somebody. So, uh, classic points like CB six CV, 12 stomach, 36 spleen six. So that’s more like central key, definitely. On the back, you would do 14, do 12, these help with the nervous system. And also that’s the meeting point of young, uh, do for right. The main men we’re looking at, uh, this is the gate of light, like on the gates of life, you know, when you’re stressed out or your, your, your kidney essence is draining, you really want to be able to route the person. So bladder, and then outside bladder point 52 more for spiritual, right. Or one more spirit point and then the six flowers. So you’re really like looking at helping that person consolidate their energy. Right. We don’t need to manipulate too much like, oh, they’ve, you know, this point for that, you just think about constitutionally helping them to get back into a place of balance, essential oils.

This is something also, they have essential oils have psychoactive properties. You can also miss that, have them massage them on certain points. I won’t get into. There’s like a whole, they’re all types of kinds of protocols. Um, but essential oils, uh, because they’re psychoactive, they go directly to the brain and can affect the chemistry. And that’s, this is a tool that can help your patients, um, when they’re feeling stressed or just to kind of have a, a, uh, you know, vapors or, um, a mist of it to really help them to, um, have a calm environment. They’re also great for children, right. Children experienced a lot of stress and often they can’t say it, they may act out right, and they’ll have tummy aches and, and, uh, other kinds of, of problems. Right. And they pick up our vibration, right. They’ve got their mirror neurons.

So if we’re stressed out, they’re going to pick it up. And then what I do recommend is something like Vetivar or bergamot. And this is, uh, in research, they, it shows that it has a similar effect as valuable in terms of calming, right. And also lavender is always like a natural, uh, uh, soothing and calming central oil. And you can get like lavender pillows and things like that. I think, uh, patients, they love, they love it, right? They love it. You can have little gifts, self massage. Uh, so in Asia for anyone who’s listening, if you’re Asian, it’s, it’s very common practice. Even as when I was a child, uh, to learn to kind of do massage techniques, especially on your parents’ back, you know, uh, little, little hands or walking on their, their back, uh, and, uh, you know, to learn how to do this.

And, and you do it in the home, uh, so you can teach your patients to massage their own feet, maybe stimulating kidney one, uh, they can also use one of those stimulation balls. You know, the kind of like helps to, uh, treat the entire body through the bottom of the foot, right. It’s also going to help with sleep. You can also massage a little bit of essential oil at the bottom of the feet. Um, I also, uh, like to teach my patients to press, you know, down the, the stomach channel, right. Stomach 36 all the way down. So there’s a stomach channel because that’s also the same idea is we want, you know, the, your central achie or nutritive cheek, um, your digestion, and that’s going to help to nourish the whole body. You’re you on cheat also liver three, nourishing your liver, helping with the smooth flow of, of cheap teas.

Um, there are so many teas out there. I suggest to my patients to kind of switch up caffeine, cause people want to be alert. Uh, stress can actually cause people to be really sleepy, right. Or to like really be overwhelmed, like dealing with, uh, a stressful situation. You actually burn a lot of energy and then have difficulty concentrating. Um, so, uh, offer having someone take tea, it has half the caffeine, but also, um, T is delivers a slow, an even amount of caffeine. And this is due to its chemical composition, which is actually great. I mean, there’s a lot of, there’s a history of the difference between, uh, coffee and tea and the idea in terms of the industrial revolution and being able to focus and be more productive. Right. Um, and that has to do with caffeine. Uh, what I have discovered is this is something that you can look up con a T uh, there are some over the counter and the health food stores. Uh, it is a very interesting herb. It’s a succulent from South Africa, natural serotonin uptake, inhibitor, meaning, uh, allows more serotonin to circulate. Um, so you feel better and, uh, stimulates the endocannabinoid system, uh, meaning immune. And then it’s also very empathic genetic. So you feel, you know, it’s at heart opening, you feel much better, and this is something that you can buy in the health food stores. And if you want, you can contact me and I can tell you different ones that I’ve looked at.

Okay. Another connecting with nature, what kind of mindfulness practice, um, and essential oils that you recommend, uh, bergamot, uh, the, uh, recommend vet D bear and Vermont, right? Those have the, if you look there’s research on those, uh, that, that shows that as the similar effect on the brain as taking Ballmer, right? So you smell it and you feel calmer, right. Um, so, uh, connecting with nature, having a mindfulness practice. So mindfulness practice, that’s a whole other, you know, it’s a very big topic, some kind of meditation or gratitude, uh, but also, you know, post-traumatic stress is very disruptive to the whole system at its deepest level. And so something there needs to be something great to feel that there’s something greater than right. Which is, which is that feeling with meditation, more connected to the world, right. Instead of, uh, uh, retracting or contracting.

Um, and one of the things is, is nature. So nature has a vibration, it sustains life, right? There’s a vibration of plants. There’s a vibration of the earth. And so things like gardening, or actually physically connecting barefoot to the earth or grass, or even sitting under a tree, what happens is, is our body is naturally going to go to synchronize with the vibration. And so we, and this gets back to us, right. Uh, when we are in a place of calm, we are so great for our patients. And I, and I know that they come and they say, wow, how are you? So calm? I always feel good when I come and see you. Right. And what it is is when you’re in a place of calm, you’re very stable. And then they have, it’s like, you’re like a beacon and a place of stability for them to feel like everything is going to be okay, which is why it’s very important that take care of yourself also.

And the other thing, um, before I conclude is I want to say that less is more so when dealing with, uh, post-traumatic stress, uh, less is more individuals are already overwhelmed and overstimulated, which is why I said like, okay, maybe some magnets, uh, that they can do on their own as well after being treated, uh, you know, to, to little things, simple shifts to ease them out of that cycle. Right. So they can feel that they could do a little thing that they’re in control of. They’re not given a ton of, of, uh, homework, because then that’s just like a whole other thing to deal with. And I think it’s really important that, uh, people can actually, uh, have these resources that you’re gonna teach them and show them. Of course, there are many more, uh, you can, uh, work with, uh, different kinds of recipes and foods to, to help them, you know, so something that’s simple, right.

And so that they can cultivate, uh, health and wellness and longevity and resilience for themselves. So this is the conclusion. Um, and let’s see, I hopefully I would like you to make sure that you join us next week, where we’re going to have Lorne Brown, uh, coming and, uh, he’ll be giving a wonderful talk. And again, I would like to thank the American acupuncture council for, uh, having these talks on. And I hope that, uh, they were interesting for you. I would love your comments and please, um, let me see, where would I please share the reference? Okay. Um, okay. There is going to be a transcript and a replay. Uh, so, uh, if, uh, or you can contact me and I can talk to you more about, you know, some of the essential, some essential oils, right. Um, that’s a whole other topic. All right. And, okay. So thank you. And I hope to see you next time.