Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Unseeing, Unwinding, & Understanding PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the clinical term for the aftermath left within the brain after a traumatic experience. It can happen to anyone of any age, gender, and health status; however, military combat veterans are often the primary group attributed with PTSD. Statistics suggest that about 7-8% of the American population has been diagnosed with PTSD.

When faced with a stressful situation, the brain goes through many processes to assess the threat and respond to it. A series of chemicals and hormones are released depending on how the brain reacts to the experience. When the event creates an overwhelming response to the brain, it may fire off too many excitatory chemicals that it cannot turn off. Emotions are chemical reactions within the brain, many of which are substances that are required for other cellular functions that deal with digestion, hormone regulation, immune responses and more. If there is a chronic imbalance of chemicals being created or depleted due to severe emotions such as depression or anger, it can manifest into physical disease. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a prime and extreme example of emotional toxicity. The constant heightened stress response causes a cascade of reactions in the brain spiraling down into the rest of the body. Certain areas in the brain lose circulation and go dormant, while inflammation from stress appears in muscles, bones, the GI tract, etc. Research shows that people with PTSD are at an increased risk of being diagnosed with autoimmune and cardiac diseases.

The effects of PTSD can cause physiological damage to the brain that is visible on SPECT and other brain scans. This can be attributed to the brain losing the ability to regulate stress hormones such as cortisol and the resulting inflammation. The extreme production of hormones and other chemicals creates emotional responses outside of the patient’s control as well as neuroinflammation. It can also lead to the patient having nightmares, reliving the traumatic event, or having anxiety attacks whenever they have an emotional response to anything. PTSD can be a life-altering, debilitating condition for many patients and it can last for a lifetime. Some cases are compounded by a traumatic brain injury which brings more inflammation to the damaged tissues in the brain.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for PTSD has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, especially for combat veterans. It is well documented that the anti-inflammatory power of oxygen reaches the brain quickly inside a hyperbaric chamber, even at lower pressures like 1.3 or 1.5 ATA. Reduced inflammation, increased circulation, and the detoxification of built up toxic brain chemicals can help quiet the overfiring emotions, reignite the dormant areas of the brain and bring it back into a balanced state. Many patients note improvement in mood, sleep, mental clarity and overall well being.

Low pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy and SPECT brain imaging in the treatment of blast-induced chronic traumatic brain injury

Drill Sargent with sad expression on face


A 25-year-old male military veteran presented with diagnoses of post concussion syndrome and post traumatic stress disorder three years after loss of consciousness from an explosion in combat. The patient underwent single photon emission computed tomography brain blood flow imaging before and after a block of thirty-nine 1.5 atmospheres absolute hyperbaric oxygen treatments.

The patient experienced a permanent marked improvement in his post-concussive symptoms, physical exam findings, and brain blood flow. In addition, he experienced a complete resolution of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. After treatment he became and has remained employed for eight consecutive months. This case suggests a novel treatment for the combined diagnoses of blast-induced post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Videos and Research Studies

Dr. Paul Harch treats Iraq vets for TBI/PTSD with HBOT