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Woman with rare condition doesn't experience fear, raises hope for PTSD sufferers


PTSD research
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(NaturalNews) There are several popular phrases that urge people to fight their fears. Overcoming fears, forging on despite them, finding happiness when experiencing fears and doing one thing that you fear every day are all part of the many sayings.

For one woman living in Iowa, fear is nonexistent in her life. She literally knows no fear.

Known only as S.M., the 44-year-old woman has a rare genetic condition called Urbach-Wiethe disease that renders her unable to recognize, and therefore react to, fear. Even in situations that most other people would view as terrifying, she remains unfazed. She's been held at knifepoint, stood inches from a poisonous snake and even encountered spousal abuse. No fear.(1)

Experts even studied her by randomly blowing a horn or asking her to draw a picture of a fearful face. She showed no reaction in response to the blaring sound and was unable to draw a fearful expression. As usual, she did not exhibit fear.(2)

Changes in the brain that make one unable to recognize fear

Urbach-Wiethe disease leads to deposits of calcium in her brain's amygdala, which is responsible for interpreting and transmitting fear signals to other parts of the body. For example, a properly-functioning amygdala plays a role in physical response to fear such as a quickening heartbeat or sweaty palms.(1)

S.M.'s neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, who works at the University of Southern California, says, "The bad events appear to us because we know that she was threatened, but she herself did not see herself as threatened. So as a result, she is lacking the bad stuff in her life." He adds that "You know, joy, sadness, anger - she was perfectly normal with those. Fear was really an isolated defect."(1)

Of the time she was held at knife point, S.M. says, "I was walking to the store, and I saw this man on a park bench. He said, "Come here please." So I went over to him. I said, "What do you need? He grabbed me by the shirt, and he held a knife to my throat and told me he was going to cut me. I told him - I said, 'Go ahead and cut me.'" She wasn't harm whatsoever by the man. S.M. adds, "I wasn't afraid. And for some reason, he let me go. And I went home."(2)

How rare disease may help those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

It's thought that S.M.'s condition may not only help others with the disease, but that in time, it may assist those who have encountered fearful situations in their lives. Specifically, more exploration about the amygdala may provide additional insight about those dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).(1)

While typically associated with war and combative situations, PTSD is also common for those who have experienced other traumatic events such as a violent crime, a car accident or a natural disaster. A person need not be directly involved either; PTSD can occur even if a highly-fearful event is simply witnessed. Typically a person impacted by such events faces a lifelong struggle based on the frightening encounter specific to them and often lives a life filled with flashbacks of the situation, anxiety, sudden outbursts, depression and uneasiness in social and professional environments.(3)

A better understanding of how the amygdala works may shed more light into this disorder and potentially help those with PTSD. Urbach-Wiethe disease affects only 400 people around the globe.(2)

Sources:

http://www.nydailynews.com

http://www.npr.org

http://psychcentral.com

About the author:
A science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition, Antonia has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well. >>> Click here to see more by Antonia

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