Can Eyes Really Open a Window into the Past – PTSD Myth or Truth!

UT Health San Antonio

Now there is a little possibility that one can hide their traumatic life experiences from others. A recent study has brought a new revelation to the ground, which exerts that the size of the pupil can reveal if the person having PTSD has faced trauma in the past.

One of the characteristic features of PTSD is the alteration in the performance of the autonomic nervous system. It can be a great threat to mental health. New research reveals some exciting details about PTSD.

What do you need to know about PTSD?

Any stressful or frightening event can cause PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. It causes a person to continuously have nightmares and flashbacks. Such people also often isolate themselves and show irritability and guilt.

One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is insomnia and difficulty in concentration. The symptoms are strong enough to affect daily life, chores, and relationships. According to the reports, people may experience PTSD due to any car accident, sexual assault, robbery, murder, childbirth issues, or severe health problems.

PTSD time periods can vary. It may be due to only one event or many events over months or years. Many people face difficulty in expressing their emotions. Some even pull it down to make a smart move with a therapist.

The Supporting Study

Swansea and Cardiff universities collaborative study found that people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder show varying responses to certain situations. They behave differently in seeing exciting and treacherous scenarios.

According to the study analysis, these people show an extreme or more dramatic response in such situations. It is a matter of common fact that pupil size adapts to change in light intensity. What is more, it even alters when a person is exhilarated, focusing on something, or frightened.

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A shock or a surprise can cause the pupil to enlarge. However, a more exaggerated response is noted in people with PTSD. The study divided its participants into three groups: people confirmed with PTSD, ones who have experienced a traumatic event but are not diagnosed with PTSD, and a control group who have had a happy past.

The team was led by Prof Nicola Gray, of Swansea University, and Prof Robert Snowden, of Cardiff University. The findings of the research are found in the journal Biological Psychology.

She highlights how such people show fast pupil constriction due to parasympathetic function and then dilation, a marker of sympathetic function. The pupil size increases dramatically if the picture is intimidating like weapons, fire, or fierce animals.

Analysis of the Research

People with PTSD show a different kind of behavior in both episodes. The pupils did not constrict much when they saw the new images. However, it expanded much more when they saw scary images in PTSD people than the rest.

One of the participants who wish to stay anonymous describes how his time in the army left him unable to drive at night. It is due to the insufficient constriction on streetlights, which made him deprive of sight temporarily.

As per the study, PTSD people showed exceptional behavior with dilated pupils upon seeing positive and thrilling images.

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When people with PTSD were shown an image of a sporting triumph or a person sky-diving, they showed the same pupil response as of seeing a frightening image. Even though the participants were not at all frightened, they were aroused upon seeing them.

Prof Gray hopes this will help them in the future find new treatments for PTSD. These new findings could prove to be beneficial in the diagnosis and benchmarking progress. Also, it may help to somehow reduce arousal levels to combat PTSD.

About the author


Adeena Tariq Lari

The author is a graduate of dental surgery from the Dow University Health Sciences, Karachi. She has an academic background in content writing as well as English literature, giving her an edge in the field. Adeena is always curious about physical and mental health. She is always passionate about research and delivering high-quality reliable content to users.

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