PTSD and the “Hot Stove” Effect

| November 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

The basic cause of PTSD is no mystery. Traumatic experiences trigger what I call the “hot stove effect,” which happens like this: if a child touches a hot stove and burns his hand, the subconscious creates an association between the hot stove and the ensuing pain and injury. The next time it recognizes a hot stove, it spits out neurochemicals called peptides which cause the child to experience fear. This is designed as a protection from further injury.

The problem is that the subconscious often becomes overprotective. For example, if a romantic relationship ends, the pain and heartache may be associated with aspects of the relationship – attraction, vulnerability, etc. When the brain recognizes these elements, it may deliver the same anxiety response as caused by the hot stove.

Thus the subconscious inadvertently inhibits positive aspects of living in its efforts to protect us from pain and damage. Not only relationships may be adversely affected, but work, social situations, crowded, dark, or unfamiliar situations, and even getting out of bed in the morning may become unbearable for the sufferer.


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