29 Nov 2009
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — PTSD — High Cortisol and How To Heal From It by Eileen Nauman, DHM (UK), medical astrologer
PART 2– The Astrology behind PTSD/High Cortisol and How do we get PTSD/high cortisol?
Here is an illustration showing the adrenal glands that sit on top of each kidney. When cortisol is within normal limits, the Adrenals “talk” to the Pituitary gland. Between the two, cortisol is kept within normal levels. However, when PTSD occurs, over time, the Pituitary is knocked out of the picture and the consequence is high cortisol without any controls. It remains high in our bloodstream forever–unless something is done to bring it back into normal operating levels. The good news is that can be done. See Blog #3 to be released on 11.30.09
THE ASTROLOGY SIGNATURE OF PTSD and High Cortisol Level
Astrologically, PTSD has some familiar planetary players. Mars symbolizes the violence aspect. And Mars rules the Adrenal glands. Uranus for the shock/trauma experienced that may remain in the body a lifetime. Neptune causes the person to go into addictions to escape the high cortisol symptoms, usually via drugs and/or alcohol.
Mars rules the Adrenal glands. It is our “fight or flight” glands that sit atop our kidneys. When we feel threatened, unsafe, cortisol is the first thing to shoot into our blood stream. Then, if we feel violence is going to happen, here comes the adrenaline. When the threat or sense of unsafeness is no longer there, the adrenals stop putting them out into the bloodstream and things and your sense of safety returns to normal. You now feel safe and unthreatened.
Pluto is another big player in PTSD because it rules over the endocrine system in general. With PTSD and high cortisol you are looking at the adrenal glands as the primary reason and the cascade effect on the thyroid secondarily. The thyroid is ruled by Mercury and Taurus. Pluto is also is the keeper of the contents of our Unconscious where the original PTSD symptoms lurk and control us via the high cortisol levels.
The Moon, by far, is the key player for potential PTSD/high cortisol situation. The Moon is the seat of our emotions. When our emotions are abused/shocked/traumatized either for a short period or a long time, damage is done. It is the Moon that must deal with all our emotions, including those of fear, threat and possible death by violence–all PTSD triggers. A Moon with three or more hard aspects, especially with any of the above, may make you sensitive to PTSD symptoms more than most. And if you find yourself with any of the high cortisol symptoms outline in Blog #1 on 11.28.09, then you should be further tested.
Tragically, a Moon with many hard aspects potentially indicates a person who grew up in a dysfunctional family where they never felt “safe.” The more hard aspects, the more unsafe the person felt in their growing up years. If you find a Moon with Mars, Uranus or Pluto in hard aspect, then there is every chance this person not only suffered from mental and emotional abuse, but physical abuse as well.
Pay attention to Chiron, the ‘wounded healer.’ You will often find the natal Chiron playing a direct part in the accumulated PTSD symptoms. These are the players in PTSD from my experience.
House-wise, the terminal houses of the fourth, eighth and twelfth are also indicators of PTSD. If you find planets in any of these houses with hard aspect, then suspect it.
Another way to look at how a person grew up and what their childhood was like is to look at the sign on the cusp of the fourth house. Then, look at the planetary ruler and see how many hard aspects it has. If there are three or more, you can suspect some kind or type of abuse that was doled out on this person as a child. Let me give you an example from my own chart. I have 26 Scorpio on the 4th house cusp. Pluto is the “new” ruler and Mars is the “old” ruler. Looking at Pluto, it is in my 12th house of hidden secrets. Pluto is inconjunct my Moon. Pluto is also conjunct my Mars. And Mars is inconjunct my Moon. There are two YODS that are formed with these two:
Pluto sextile Neptune inconjunct Moon
Mars sextile Jupiter inconjunct Moon
These aspects alone, without the YOD being involved, is enough to make them ‘players’ in suspected abuse in the home (4th house). To add to this, the Moon has a square to my Sun. Moon is inconjunct Mars, inconjunct Jupiter. Chiron is conjunct Jupiter. Moon is square Uranus. In all, there are six hard aspects to the Moon, alone. Again, this is to give anyone pause and make them wonder if this person wasn’t terribly traumatized. When you add up the damage by planets: Moon, Uranus, Pluto, Mars, Neptune and Jupiter, you have all the necessary PTSD signature to know there’s an awfully good chance that this person has PTSD. The only thing to do is to verify it via the symptoms in Blog #1.
And I can verify I grew up in a violent, abusive home. I’m lucky to be alive. And there was abuse on every level. What is more important is to realize that there can be what I term ‘mild’ abuse in the home and nowhere near the level that I survived, and it will STILL create PTSD symptoms in a person. For some individuals, whose spirit is not strong, a “little” abuse, a “little” trauma is as powerful and devastating as it is for someone else.
We can’t minimize or judge the home environment and its result on another person. What we can do is see HOW BADLY DAMAGED they are by it. The body remembers. Our cells remember everything, good and bad, that happens to us. The body has memory. And so, by taking out that list of cortisol symptoms, you can ask your relative, friend or client about these symptoms. If they fit two or three of them, then they should contact a Functional Medicine doctor for further evaluation and testing (saliva/blood) which I’ll talk more about in another blog.
Continuing our discussion of Terminal houses, the eighth house represents power OVER us by someone else. If there is a planet(s) in the 8th house with hard aspects, then that child can feel lorded over and abused by an adult or older child. Sexual predators are in the 8th house, as well, and it’s not uncommon to see a child sexually abused with planets in here with hard aspects.
The Twelfth house holds a lot of secrets; mostly skeletons in our family closet or from our own poor choices living life. Planets here in hard aspect can indicate toxic family secrets of all kinds. It can also mean the perpetrator gets away his his or her abuse of the victim. If a person has planets in this location in hard aspect, they may or may not remember the abuse done to them. The brain has a ‘fail-safe’ mechanism that shields us from trauma so horrifying that if we could remember it, it would probably destroy us either mentally or emotionally–or both. Therefore, these people may NEVER remember what was done to them. But their body will. And the way you tell that is when they test for high cortisol. The body ALWAYS remembers even if we don’t. And if you ask a person about possible trauma or abuse and they don’t remember, don’t take their word for it. Suggest the lab tests that I’ll share with you in another blog.
HOW DO YOU GET PTSD?
1. It can be a sudden, unexpected stress. For example, you see or survive an automobile or a train wreck, you live through an earthquake, you see a plane crash (or you survive one), you live through a flood, or some other kind of natural disaster, such as a tornado or hurricane. An explosion can cause it. Being involved in a fire, or seeing one wreak havoc, can also trigger this cascade of symptoms. The attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Centers is ripe for PTSD symptoms, as was the destruction of the Twin Trade towers on 9.11– for not only those caught in this horrible holocaust, but those who viewed it on television or heard it on radio not only in the USA–but around the world. So, you don’t need to have been there to “get” PTSD symptoms. We are all vulnerable to such global trauma. The death of a loved one (parent, child, grandparent, uncle, aunt, good friend, ect) can also trigger PTSD.
2. Men or women who have ‘gone to war’–whether in armed combat, or the ‘war’ on the streets as a police person, firefighter, paramedic, ambulance attendant, gang-banging, or the war in a dysfunctional family, all qualify. The Gulf War vets, the Iraq and Afghanistan vets as well as the Vietnam vets, have earned their PTSD symptoms from encountering the gory, super-stressful, bloody horror of war–up front and close. Their lives may have been threatened. Maybe not. Just living in a war zone is enough to trigger PTSD in some people. Terrorist attacks can create it. Living in a ‘war-zone’ neighborhood, or the inner city, will trigger these symptoms. Places such as Yugoslavia, now carved up into fiefdom, is another good example–all people of that area have suffered some form and exposure to PTSD. Israel is under constant threat of attack and I’m sure many of them suffer from these symptoms.
3. If the person is exposed to inhumane treatment–and this includes verbal or physical abuse (spousal), incest or rape or actually being a POW, prisoner-of-war, PTSD symptoms will manifest. Torture comes in many forms. If one lives eighteen years in a dysfunctional family, that is a special hell and torture in its own right. One doesn’t need to be put in a cage somewhere in Vietnam to garner the same PTSD symptoms. The cage for the trapped child is just as real because their is no escape for eighteen years. Either environment will create them. If an individual views atrocity, that can trigger symptoms.
Again, it doesn’t have to be in a war zone or in combat–it can be at a train wreck, an airplane disaster, a terrorist attack. As an example, the Oklahoma City bombing has, quite literally, created a city of PTSD survivors. Many police and firefighters view human remains at accident sites all the time–and never received help for what they view. Some did, fortunately–but others did not. Human or animal atrocity affects all of us. The question is just how much. At some point, we all have an inner boundary where inhumane treatment, torture or atrocity, will affect all of us.
Now, the latest trauma, the terrorist attacks on our Pentagon and the destruction of the World Trade Centers in New York City have, once again, created a massive PTSD epidemic in the wake of these assaults on our collective, USA psyche. Bosnia has been traumatized. Right now, it is Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention, Iran and Pakistan. Violence against anyone breeds PTSD.
4. The psychological and constitutional elements of ourselves, which is known collectively to the homeopath as the “vital force” will create more or less susceptibility to PTSD symptoms. Ten people can view a plane crash. There will be ten different, varying levels of reaction to it. Those whose vital forces are more susceptible to this type of trauma, will be more profoundly affected and they will be the ones coming away with PTSD symptoms and high cortisol levels. Others may be less affected or not at all. Four children in an abusive household will have four different coping mechanisms and reactions to the war-zone environment and each vital force will respond a little differently to it–but they will all walk away wounded with PTSD. It’s just a question of how much damage has been done and where. Some people’s psyche/vital force, are more resilient than others. However, the more long-term the ‘war zone’ that is encountered, the more sure you are that they will all be effected. It’s just a question of how much, at that point.
5. Any of the above situations combined with physical abuse or bodily injury will cause PTSD. Injury, particularly to the head region, will guarantee it. Homes where children are slapped, beaten, thrown around, will have a high degree of PTSD symptoms unless they have a very tough, strong vital force. And even then, they will still be wounded; but perhaps not as deeply as some other individuals who are more susceptible to such a combative environment.
6. PTSD symptoms can worsen especially if there is no social net or fabric in which to seek help or protection from this warlike environment or warlike person. Without an abuse shelter being available, without the means to talk to someone who recognizes the bottom line of the problem, survivors, if left in such an environment, simply become worse over time. A military vet who cannot seek help, is left to suffer in his or her personal hell that only deepens and stains their entire life, year by year. PTSD symptoms, if not caught and reversed, only become worse with time. It ruins marriages, children, and stains the PTSD survivor irrevocably. In a sense a PTSD survivor is still in their POW cage–it just isn’t visible, but it’s there in the guise of high cortisol symptoms (Blog #1, 11.28.09).
THE THYROID IMPLICATION
There is synergy between cortisol and thyroid hormones. Both have to be in our cells, bound to their respective receptors at normal levels in order to work efficiently. If cortisol levels are low, caused by Adrenal exhaustion, our thyroid is less efficient at doing its job of increasing our energy and metabolic activity. The person may end up with hypothyroid symptoms and unwanted weight gain.
When your cortisol is too high, it interferes with the thyroid hormone signal. In essence, it creates what is known as ‘thyroid resistance.’ This means the thyroid hormones levels can be ‘normal’ in a test, but our cell tissues fail to respond as efficiently to the thyroid signal. This too can be misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism. Throwing thyroid supplements at it won’t fix it, either. Why? Because the foundational problem is the high cortisol. You bring the cortisol within normal operation and the hypothyroid symptoms go away and your thyroid is able to function fully and normally once more.
Signs of hypothyroid symptoms are:
* Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
* Coarse, dry hair
* Dry, rough pale skin
* Hair loss
* Cold intolerance (you can’t tolerate cold temperatures like those around you)
* Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
* Memory loss
* Abnormal menstrual cycles
* Decreased libido, low or no sex drive
High cortisol also causes insulin resistance as well. It takes more insulin to drive glucose into the cells when coritsol is high. And so you have a high coritsol and insulin and this creates the ‘insulin resistance.’ You are going to gain weight around the waist because our body stores fat there, rather than burning it off like it should. This is the “apple” body shape.
PERI-MENOPAUSE AND MENOPAUSE
When cortisol is high, our brain is less sensitive to estrogens. This can throw women into “early” menopause. It can also amp up hot flashes and night flashes….which are not only bothersome but at night, when we’re trying to sleep–we are constantly be awakened. The sleep deprivation from this one symptom alone will put any woman into a tailspin over time. In peri-menopausal women cortisol should drop at night. Progesterone plays an important role here because it actually competes with cortisol for the glucocorticoid receptors. It can counter the stimulating (wide awake vs sleeping) effects of cortisol at night when you need to be sleeping deeply and soundly. With high cortisol, the progesterone is shoved aside and loses out. The result is insomnia for the woman.
You can have post menopausal women with reasonable amounts of estrogen but when the cortisol rises, she will get hot flashes–which are seen by the medical establishment as an estrogen deficiency. In this case, it’s not a deficiency. It’s the cortisol interfering in the process. If the cortisol levels are brought down to normal, the hot flashes end once and for all. And if your doctor misdiagnosis your hot flash symptoms, he or she will give you other hormones to compensate–and they won’t work. Be sure, if you are past menopause, and continue to have hot flashes, to get your cortisol levels checked first (Part 3 will have information on who to contact and what tests to get) before taking any other hormones.
There’s real problems with bone loss (spinal shrinkage among them) when cortisol is high. It activates many of the biochemical pathways that are involved with bone resorption. It specifically inhibits osteoblast activity which is responsible for bone building. It suppresses production of androgens (male hormones) in the gonads and adrogens help build bone in men. It activates osteoclasts which causes bone to be resorbed faster than normal. It decreases mineral absorption in the gut (and that is why a good mineral supplement is vital). You won’t be able to absorb calcium and magnesium–both of which are needed to build bone and keep our bones strong. It also increases kidney spilling of calcium. So that’s another loss of calcium for us.
PART 3– Normalizing Cortisol and Saying Good-bye to PTSD Symptoms
Schmookler, E., Ph.D., Trauma Treatment Manual, 1996, Revised 2001, http://www.trauma-pages.com/s/schmookler-manual.php
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, American Psychiatric Assn., Washington, D.C., January, 1995
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 16th Edition, edited by Robert Berkow, MD, Merck Research Labs, Rahway,NJ, 1992.
Butler, K., The Biology of Fear, July/Aug., 1996, The Family Therapy Networker, Washington, D.C.
High Cortisol, Thyroid, Bones, Menopause
HOW CORTISOL LEVELS AFFECT THYROID FUNCTION AND AGING
Interview with David Zava, Ph.D.
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