OBSERVATIONS ON TRAUMATIC STRESS UTILIZING THE MODEL OF THE "WHIPLASH SYNDROME" ROBERT C. SCAER, M.D.
In his book, Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self, Allen Schore has outlined in exquisite detail the psychobiology of early childhood development involving maturation of orbitofrontal and limbic structures based on reciprocal experiences with the care giver. (14). Dysfunctional associations in this dyadic relationship result in permanent physicochemical and anatomical changes which have implications for personality development as well as for a wide variety of clinical manifestations. An intimate relationship may exist, with negative child/care giver interaction leading to a state of persisting hypertonicity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems that may profoundly affect the arousal state of the developing child. Sustained hyperarousal in these children may markedly affect behavioral and characterological development.
This phenomenon has its correlation in the adult traumatic experience and its effect on the autonomic nervous system. Although this effect has been described extensively in Viet Nam veterans and other groups of traumatized individuals, one of the more fascinating models of the physiology of the traumatic experience had been developed by Peter Levine, PhD., (7,8) based on the ethological model of the fight/flight/freeze response seen in animals in response to life-threatening experiences. In the wild, the preyed-upon animal will flee or attempt to fight, but if trapped, will enter a freeze response where it assumes a state of immobility while physiologically still manifesting high levels of activity of both parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. If the animal survives the attack, it will go through a period of discharge of this high level automatic arousal through the motor system involving trembling, running movements, shaking, diaphoresis and deep breathing. Following this, the animal will return to its prior state of calm alertness. Interestingly, game keepers in Africa interviewed by Levine who capture animals for examination or tagging routinely note that if the animal does not go through the shaking/breathing response after release, they will inevitably die in the wild, possibly due to the inability to initiate appropriate self- protective behavior. Read on
Traumatic reactions occur when action is of no avail ~ Judith Herman