Breakthrough Treatment For PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Soldiers Find Relief During Neurofeedback Therapy

A relatively little-known treatment for soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder is gaining some notoriety locally. 23 ABC's North of the River Reporter Mark Christian looks into neurofeedback and spoke to military veterans who have gone through the therapy.

Those diagnosed with PTSD can experience the original traumas through flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and increased arousal. As a result, they usually have difficulty falling or staying asleep. They also live with daily anger, and hypervigilance.

Neurofeedback therapy is said help the individual return to a normal brain function after a traumatic event. Research from the national organization, Home Coming for Veterans, shows that veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD can benefit from the therapy to get their life back.

Home Coming for Veterans contacted Kimberly Smith, who runs a neurofeedback center in northwest Bakersfield to offer help to veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

"When I first got involved with the program, I had no idea that it would snowball into the impact that it would make in these veterans lives," said Kimberly Smith, neurofeedback clinician.

J.R. Browning served as an infantry solider for six years. He fought in Iraq twice. He suffered several concussions from large blast that left him with traumatic brain injury.

"I was bombarded over there. The shock wave of one after another after another took its toll on me after while," said Browning.

Denita Hartfield served in the Army for 17 years and was looking forward to making the military a career. But she was severely injured during an ambush and had to leave the military. Her years of military service left her with the mental scars that would make civilian life impossible.

"I became hyper vigilant. I bought a house on a cul-de-sac. I have several weapons throughout my house, each room has a firearm or knife or both. I didn't realize that I did perimeter checks of my house every night before I went to bed, which someone had to point out to me," said Hartfield.

Neurofeedback works by placing electrodes on the scalp that monitor brain waves. That information is then fed back to the patient while they are watching a movie or video game. Researchers say the therapy allows the individual get back control of mental function that PTSD took away, by allowing their brain to reset itself to a calm state.

"It's really a passive process that is working on a neuronal level. These veterans are stuck in a high alert traumatic state and their brains won't let them let go. So neurofeedback definitely targets the way the brain communicates with itself," said Smith.

Browning said PTSD left him with social and mental issues that affected every aspect of his life.

"I had obvious social deficits; I had trouble relating to people. Sometimes I even have trouble talking to people," said Browning.

Hartfield also dealt with social issues, but she say PTSD also left her suffering with headaches, sleeping disorders and nightmares.

"I couldn't really function. After neurofeedback, the headaches lessened. I started sleeping again. I got rid of the nightmares, which lead to the insomnia," said Hartfield.

Researchers say the results of neurofeedback therapy for PTSD are permanent and have changed many lives for the better.

"I wouldn't recognize the before and after person if you put them next to each other. You would think it's two different people," said Smith.

"I'm happier, I care more. That's one of the things people are saying they recognize about me after the treatment," said Hartfield.

"The results are undeniable. I don't think I would have gotten this help if I were to try anything else," said Browning.

The Wounded Heroes Fund of Kern County is paying for much of the treatment for local veterans. Neurofeedback is also a growing recognized treatment for learning disabilities in children and adults.

For more information call, Neurofeedback Train Your Brain at 661-588-7038.

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