Home #Hwoodtimes Overreaching Conservatorship Causing Trauma & PTSD

Overreaching Conservatorship Causing Trauma & PTSD

Dr. Shauna “Doc” Springer, Ph.D., Stella’s Chief Psychologist

By: T. Felder

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/20/21 – Abuses inflicted during conservatorships can have a negative effect on victims, leading them down a road of trauma and PTSD. We’ve seen this happen to a host of public figures, the most recent one being Brittney Spears. She has suffered through her father’s control and been denied the right to make personal decisions regarding her body and career. THT had the opportunity to interview Shauna ‘Doc’ Springer, a best-selling author, frequently requested keynote speaker, and one of the world’s leading experts on psychological trauma, military transition, suicide prevention, and close relationships. She is the author of WARRIOR: How to Support Those Who Protect Us and the co-author of BEYOND THE MILITARY: A Leader’s Handbook for Warrior Reintegration. Springer is also a Harvard graduate who has become a trusted Doc to our nation’s military warfighters, she navigates different cultures with exceptional agility. As Chief Psychologist for Stella, she advances a new model for treating psychological trauma that combines biological and psychological interventions. Doc Springer is a licensed psychologist who is frequently sourced by the media for her uniquely perceptive insights on trauma recovery, post-traumatic growth, psychological health, and interpersonal relationships, developed from two decades of work at the extremes. Doc Springer’s work has been featured in multiple media outlets, including CNN, VICE, NPR, NBC, CBS Radio, Forbes, Business Insider, Military Times, Military.com, Gun Talk Radio, Coffee or Die Magazine, Havok Journal, THRIVE GLOBAL, Police1, Anxiety.org, Washington Post. 

  1. How does strict and overreaching conservatorships lead to trauma, anxiety, mental health issues, and PTSD?
Dr. Eugene Lipov, Stella’s Chief Medical Officer

With conservatorship, there is the potential for narcissistic or sociopathic abuse of people – especially when there is a vast fortune involved. An “over-reaching” conservatorship is one where the level of control and restriction placed on someone isn’t necessary given their capabilities. Overreaching conservatorships are like a prolonged form of invisible incarceration.  An overreaching conservatorship can create a captor-captive relationship and can lead to depression, panic attacks and a wide range of post-traumatic stress symptoms in a person subjected to such a conservatorship.

  1. Why is parent’s conservatorship and abusive behavior more often inflicted on women than men?

Factors to account for disproportionate conservatorship and abuse trace back to differences in social power and relative advantage between males and females – the roots of the same inequity that lead women to be paid less than men, or to women not receiving the right to vote until 1920. Women are more likely to be treated as “dependents” than men given these power differences.

In the case of either gender, appointing a conservator that is trusted by the conservatee, and an independent professional who has oversight and accountability can decrease the risk of exploitation.

  1. Why are PTSD and trauma direct consequences of a toxic family environment?

A chaotic, unpredictable, or unsafe family environment causes a biological change to the brain – an injury that involves a shift towards a fearful/defensive state. As children, we are like fish swimming in the sea of our immediate environment, which makes it hard to see the impact that a toxic family can cause. After building trust with my patients, many of them shared stories about childhood traumas that dramatically shaped their perceptions of how safe the world is or how much others can be trusted.

  1. Why does breaking free from an abusive situation often lead to PTSD and trauma and how can it be managed?

Breaking free from an abusive situation creates safety so that healing can take place but healing still needs to happen. After trauma exposure, our baseline functioning may change in dramatic ways. In some cases, we become stuck in “fight or flight” mode – which can be observed in certain types of brain scans. Common indicators of this altered biological state include symptoms like disrupted sleep, anger attacks, overwhelming panic, difficulties concentrating, a feeling of constantly being on “high alert”, and a strong startle response – what I have referred to as a state of “chronic threat response” in multiple popular press articles.

(Examples:  CNN article, Military Times Article, THRIVE GLOBAL article, THE HILL)

  1. Can you give us some insight on the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) medical procedure? How does it treat post-traumatic stress injuries?

Trauma causes a biological injury that can often be addressed with an innovative treatment called Stellate Ganglion Block.  SGB involves injecting a widely available, commonly used anesthesia into a bundle of nerves in the neck, called the “stellate ganglion,” just above the collarbone.  The stellate ganglion connects to the amygdala, the portion of the brain that governs the “fight or flight” system, and a successful procedure restores a feeling of calm within one’s body.

  1. How did (Dr. Eugene Lipov) discover this form of treatment?

Based on a published case by Dr. Teleranta in 1998, my colleague Dr. Eugene Lipov hypothesized that neurological connections running between the sympathetic ganglion and the brain structures become hyperactivated following trauma exposure, that this leads to increases in nerve growth factor and norepinephrine levels, and that injection of an anesthetic medication into the Stellate Ganglion nerve bundle might be able to alleviate the severity of trauma symptoms.

Lipov initially tested this theory on a 48-year-old armed robbery victim who had not found relief from conventional treatments.[1] As Lipov has explained (direct quote via personal communication), “the patient was attacked during a robbery and was scheduled for admission to a psychiatric ward. He received an SGB and no longer needed to be admitted for inpatient care due to the immediate change in his symptoms following SGB. This case first showed me the potential for SGB to treat trauma.”

Cites:

Telaranta T. Treatment of social phobia by endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy. Eur J Surg Suppl. 1998:27–32.

Lipov EG, Joshi JR, Lipov S, Sanders SE, Siroko MK. Cervical sympathetic blockade in a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder: a case report. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2008; 20:227–228

  1. How effective has the (SGB) treatment been for your patients?

SGB has been extremely effective. I’ve reviewed the data of nearly 330 patients treated by Dr. Lipov between 2016-2020. Eighty percent showed a clinically significant improvement in post-traumatic stress symptoms, after one procedure. The average magnitude of improvement was a reduction of 28.9 points on the PCL, the most commonly used measure of post-traumatic stress symptoms.  Functionally, SGB is often able to dramatically reduce PTS symptoms, even in people with initially very high symptoms. We have analyzed further data that suggests that SGB works, regardless of when a trauma occurred and we’ve seen great results in patients with early childhood and more recent traumas.

  1. Who’s eligible for this procedure?

We screen for eligibility based on the target symptoms, symptoms like difficulties sleeping, anxiety attacks, surges of irritability or anger, hypervigilance, difficulties concentrating, and a strong “startle” response. We also ask questions to make sure that there are no reasons why giving an injection would be unsafe for someone – for example, if a person has metal in their neck area from a previous injury.

  1. Where can future prospects inquire about the procedure?

The initial consultation with a patient care coordinator at Stella is free of cost and can be scheduled through www.stellacenter.com