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As a man or woman in recovery from a traumatic event, you’ve learned that taking a walk outside at least once a day contributes to your mental and physical health. You’re taking a stroll through your neighborhood one night and all of a sudden fireworks go off. It isn’t a holiday and there are no planned celebrations. Whizzing, whirling, snapping, popping, loud noises go off and you go into a full blown PTSD episode. The symptoms feel out of control, you are overwhelmed, and when it is over you feel a sense of shame or confusion. Your recovery has been going great, you think to yourself. How could one little firework cause such a commotion?

Fireworks inspire a certain level of shock with their bright colors, vibrant luminescence, and ear jarring noises. We “oooh” and “aaahh” in response to fireworks partly due to the shot of adrenaline coursing through our veins with every single explosion. For veterans of war, or others who have been exposed to sudden loud, violent noises, the sudden shock of light and noise can set off PTSD. A study recently published in eLife by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute looked at the relationship between surprise events and PTSD.

Using MRI technology and video gaming, researchers examined the activity in the brain when responding to surprise. A group of veterans who did and did not have a diagnosis of PTSD played gambling games which would occasionally throw them an ‘unexpected curve ball’. When encountering a surprise, the veterans with PTSD had more activity in the areas of their brain associated with attention. Meaning, their hypervigilance spiked in response to something unexpected.

“Particularly for individuals with PTSD, unexpected surprising events — noise or otherwise — could be a matter of life or death,” explained one of the study’s co-leaders to Psych Central. “The study shows that while everyone is affected by unexpected events, in PTSD extra attention is given to these surprises.”

Trauma could be called a disorder of the nervous system. A traumatic event deeply impacts the way that the nervous system reacts and responds to any kind of stimuli, like loud noises, bright lights, or an unexpected twist in a video game. Hypervigilance is one of the many disordered reactions of the nervous system which can make living with PTSD challenging. Without any kind of treatment or therapy, veterans and others living with PTSD or any other kind of trauma can struggle to make peace with living in the world. Trauma specific treatment programs help with learning the necessary life skills and self-care needed to live peacefully and recover from trauma.

The Guest House Ocala is a private residential treatment facility offering concierge style customized care for traumas, addictions, and related mental health issues. If you are struggling with symptoms of PTSD, you are not alone. You can heal and learn to live. Call us today for information on our treatment programs: 1-855-483-7800