cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

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cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by johnram » Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:35 pm

So, i have posted before on what i feel exercise really gives me a boost, but having watched and read more about my cPTSD recently, i have come to appreciate that maybe the fact i am hypervigilant, stressed, tired, addicted etc which drain my cortisol, adrenals etc etc (brain chemicals of which i know names but not a lot of detail), it makes sense that i would get more of a boost from exercise, especially as intensity is raised a bit too.

As if i understand correctly, it gives the brain a boost of dopamine, reduces the stress symptoms and maybe heals some of the damage in the other chemical components

now i have done reading on these chemicals more from an addiction point of view, but i am keen to know if the above makes sense or anyone can offer some thoughts?

thank you


Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by ephes » Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:39 pm

There is broad, serious research published on how physical exercise affects depression, anxiety, PTSD and other. There are many good articles that sum up and explain the effects without going into the details of brain chemistry. Absolutely worth looking into.

Physical exercise is one of the main contributors to my well being. Aerobic exercise is really useful as long as I ease myself into it and then do it regularly. Some possible complications: pushing myself too hard can trigger a panic attack (body feels in danger), getting myself out of the door and actually doing is really hard after a break or when not doing it regularly. Some exercises or too intense exercise can damage (take tender care of your knees, hips, back especially)

If you have an addictive streak try getting yourself addicted to physical exercise. Getting addicted is very possible because of endorphins and other brain goodies being released during exercise. It'll do you good. Though it is a good idea to start slow and generally not overdo it.

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Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by johnram » Sat Apr 20, 2019 5:40 am

thank you Ephes
I am aware of the research, but i guess i was keen for how it relates to the constant stress response of cPTSD syptoms - i have a sense in the same way it helps depression, anxiety etc, it would mitigate cPTSD symptoms or support them temporarily.

my specific experiences:

It helps me think more clearly (which is important in helping to mitigate my problems with concentration)
it also helps me dissipate anxiety (by “burning off” excess adrenaline??)
It can help me sleep better, and insomnia has haunted me for decades.
I think it may also help with fatigue/exhaustion.
And finally, I think that by being stronger physically, I feel more powerful, and less vulnerable to external forces. As an abused child, I had no power.

I still suffer a lot and have a lot of problems, but I’m almost always better off, from many standpoints, when I exercise a lot (although currently unable)

do you exercise? what is your experience of it?

thank you for sharing


Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by ephes » Sat Apr 20, 2019 7:09 am

Here's 2 papers

This one available on sciencedirect.com
James W. Whitworth et al. 2017. Direct and indirect effects of exercise on posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms: A longitudinal study. General Hospital Psychiatry (49), 56 - 62

This one on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Opizzi LM and Umberger R 2018. The effect of physical activity on PTSD. Issues in Mental Health Nursing 39(2), 179-187

There's Jasper A. Smits at the University of Texas who has done quite a lot of research on the subject, specifically also into the effects aerobic exercise. You can find his profile on researchgate and scrolling down you'll find his papers.

Here's another link that may be helpful, they cautiously mention rather anaerobic exercise, but I like their list of how a professional working with PTSD clients should behave.

For the last 2 years I haven't been doing obsessive information gathering and analysing anymore and my Google Fu is a bit rusty:). The information is out there, it just needs to be screened for validity.

From what you describe in your last post and from extensive research published and from my own experiences I believe that physical exercise will have a strong positive impact on PTSD symptoms, especially the physical ones.

Without knowing the details of brain chemistry this makes sense to me because the fear (and other) response is managed by the amygdala then hypothalamus which are ancient parts of the brain that are directly linked to physical response (hence the very physical symptoms like trouble breathing, loss of sensation in extremities, face getting icecold etc. etc etc). So influencing the physical activities in turn have an effect on amygdala (and the fear response): breathing exercises, eating and also regular healthy workout alleviate a panic attack.
That's the nasty thing with PTSD you can't THINK IT AWAY because it is not governed by the neocortex but by your "lizard brain".
As you probably already know.

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Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by johnram » Sat Apr 20, 2019 5:04 pm

thank you for that, will be reading.

I have read a few books before on the topic and some other journals, but appreciate your efforts.

I think cPTSD specifically though isnt always covered in the research (at least in my trawls), its more covered as a byproduct of PTSD without considering the significant differences in causality and affect.

Anyway, went for a 8 mile walk today, and similar yesterday with a cycle at home....its helping, as i have been on a downward for a bit

how are you currently? finding your way with these forums?


Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by ephes » Sat Apr 20, 2019 5:43 pm

oh hey johnram,

So great you went on a walk! Well done!
I'm sorry to hear you've been down lately and hope you catch that upward drift soon.

Currently I am only on this forum and starting to find my way around it.So I learned today... that on this site I can request "notify me when a reply is posted" so I don't have to sift through old posts trying to find if someone replied... duh. I also realised that at the bottom of the page I can see if registered users are online.

You know what, I'm actually pretty ok today. Yapping about the benefits of exercise to you has made me go on a (very short, very slow) run and that always leaves me feeling better. And I've decided on how to deal with my father's relentless telephone calls. I've tended to my plants a bit and cuddled my cats. I haven't overeaten too much today. And I found a few interesting articles, one of which I'd like to mention: "Surviving the toxic parent" on psychologytoday.com, short, easy read and I like her definition of a healthy parent. It is also the definition of a healthy human the way I see it.

Hey if you want we can give it a try to be virtual workout buddies. As in hey johnram I'll go for a walk tomorrow morning, wanna go for a walk too? Or in hey ephes I went for a walk yesterday and saw those gorgeous cherry trees in bloom. While staying very anonymous of course (I'm freakishly private). Maybe it's not a good idea and don't feel obliged or anything.

Anyhoo, have a nice evening

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Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by johnram » Thu Apr 25, 2019 9:15 pm

Hi Ephes

really sorry, you didnt chase me away, i just have been off this site for a few days, and given what you wrote below, it may seem like i ignored the ask, but assure you that is not the case.
That being said, as much as i want to connect with people on this site and i have been with a few, i am wary of spending too much time on the site, and generally my laptop as its a bad addiction for me / a way to escape. So i am very grateful that you asked, and i wish i was in a space that i could offer that, but i dont feel able.

I am quite keen to keep chatting casually though, as we have been as i have most enjoyed your insights. But also we can loosely touch base on workouts within that? i just dont want to feel guilty if i am having a downer for a few days, as i want to keep using this site without feeling a commitment - hope that makes sense, and i have not over explained to confusion

how are you anyway? how has your exercising been? i had a few walks this weekend, but been lazy since


Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by ephes » Fri Apr 26, 2019 9:21 am

Aight, just lost a long message because touched a wrong key or something...
So what it was more or less
No worries, I just figured you were on Easter vacation or otherwise busy.
You are very right this is not an appropriate platform to look for workout buddies. It was a spontaneous but not a good idea. I've tortured myself in the past trying to find a reply to someone. Please don't ever feel that way with me. It is entirely ok if you don't reply to one of my posts: I can't know what's in your head or what feelings might have been caused by something I wrote and sometimes it's just too hard to find a response. I will never take offense if you don't respond and I see this forum as a place where some of the usual social conventions do not apply. Sorry, I think I found better words the first time around.
Then I went on a lengthy (and quite cathartic:)) rant on how I am, loosely connected to some walking I did. Anyway, don't want to try and type it down again.

Don't call yourself lazy... calling yourself names or bad things is not good for you. I know that because I also tell myself stuff like that sometimes (and trying to avoid it).

Soo good to hear you went on walks:)! Well done! So how have you been otherwise?

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Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by johnram » Sun May 05, 2019 8:00 pm

Hi Ephes,

how are you getting on, and managing?

I really appreciated your message below, especially the "dont call yourself lazy", its so true, we get caught up in our whole narrative that others have given us.

how is your exercising going? i went on a 15 mile walk the other day - was far too much, and feeling it 2/3 days later. It made me think of you too.

with regards to usual social conventions on these forums - i agree, i have found solace and affirmation and its really given me a mental boost, i guess having very little real support growing up , its been touching. what has been your experience on the forums, i note you have been on it for a couple months now?

actually replying to you today has reminded me to go through the forum again, i only came on for this message as i am trying not to get to addicted to healing - i have a strong addictive trait, and can become obsessive. Its great seeing people help and support one another, i wish life was simple like that.

anyway i am rambling. I really hope you are doing well, and i apologise for my reduced communication but do hope to hear from you

wishing you well ephes


Re: cPTSD / Stressed biology - restoration through exercise?

Post by ephes » Tue May 07, 2019 6:57 am

Hello johnram,

Good to hear from you. Good to hear you're keeping up the exercise! Yeah getting the amount of exercise right is really hard. Don't you just want to go out and sweat it all out!? Unfortunately, the body needs to adapt and develop to it first.

I'm really bad at both doing things consistently and doing a limited amount of it. I have too little muscle for too much weight and issues with joints and back. So what my body needs things like short, slow jogs and then some walking to concentrate on form and posture. Or walking uphill slowly. To lose fat and build up muscle. Slooooooowly. Otherwise I lie in bed and can't sleep because my knees and hips hurt (which has been the case the last 2 days).
When I started going to therapy and taking anxiolytics I lost 10 kg without even trying just because there were less panic attacks (binge eating is one of my bad coping mechanisms). Since Christmas I gained back 8 kg and now I've lost 2 again. So... yoyoing.. I went into this sugar spiral which is unusual for me, but at least I've reduced the sugar cravings substantially in the last 1 - 2 months now. Amazing how fast one can get addicted to sugar. I also have a bit of an addictive streak, process addictions are a problem. Can't handle feeling addicted to substance though, my father is an alcoholic and substance addiction scares/disgusts me because of him (thank you father). So I never let that get out of hand. Except coffee, and I guess there's a mild dependence on anxiolytic now: both of those are ok by me.
I'm trying to milk that addictive streak to get a sports addiction again. Even in my best (worst?) days of sports addiction it has never been something that negatively affected other aspects of my life, rather it's always improved my well being. But yeah, what's necessary is a slow start and gradual increase.

Otherwise, I appreciate this forum. I appreciate the concept of people helping each other. It's good to know that I'm not alone with these problems and some things I've read on this site have helped me understand/see and it's good to communicate and talk about things (on here or with my therapist).
Buuuut... I think I'm too severely emotionally handicapped to actively derive comfort from or be soothed by other's words. When I get emotional in therapy my therapist tries to ground me and soothe me. I do the things I'm told (breathing or other) but I do them for my therapist, to be a good girl. My therapist can't comfort or soothe me. Other people can't comfort or soothe me. I have never, not once in my life, been able to lean into another person and feel soothed. When I need soothing I turn to solitude, nature or animals (or bad coping habits). When I was a child and had high fevers I asked everyone to go away (my family was danger and pain) and to bring me an animal, I would then pet that animal and tell it that "it's ok, it will be ok". That's how I felt better. If I was ill but could still walk I would sneak out of the house and go into the forest or fields.
Actually, I was out of the house whenever possible, I was half feral.
As an adult I do the same: when I'm weak or hurt I avoid people. People are danger and pain.
So this forum has been good for me - to a point. Therapy helps - to a point. The drugs help. But I'm afraid that I'm only capable of interacting with people IRL again from a position of more strength than what I have now. I know that's not how humans work and I need to let people help and whatnot. But being the way I am I'm afraid I'll have to at least partly patch myself up alone before I can really interact with people again and participate in the world again.

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