The dorsal vagal shutdown, a stress response that is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system and has an impact on both physical health and mental well-being when it occurs too frequently, is increasingly common. In this article we seek to uncover why this is so by taking a closer look at what exactly the dorsal vagal shutdown entails as well as how one can identify its signs in order to restore balance back into their own nerve systems.
What is Dorsal Vagal Shutdown?
The ANS is the automatic nervous system that keeps our physiological processes in balance, regulating internal functions according to polyvagal theory and dictating how we interact with our environment. Dorsal vagal shutdown is a type of stress response initiated by the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in reduced heart rate, blood pressure dip, sometimes culminating into fainting episodes.
When trauma occurs it triggers fight or flight mode which can lead to conditions like PTSD or depression as well as long-term anxiety issues – somatic exercises target dorsal vagal shutdown and evoke ventral vagal response so one has tools on hand for managing their health through this understanding of complex activities taking place within the body’s nervous systems.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system is linked to both the brain and spinal cord. An important part of the ANS, it works to conserve energy while inducing relaxation in times of stress. This response has a balancing effect with that from its counterpart – the sympathetic nervous system. Which provokes flight or fight reactions when faced with a challenge.
Crucial for maintaining well-being on many levels, there’s also another major component within this neural setup: ventral vagal social engagement state – characterised by openness, joyfulness, mindfulness and compassion as some key traits along with enhanced ability to relate socially and restfully plus improved digestion metabolism circulation & immunity activation capability just so name few benefits.
Centered around stimuli sent out through cervicovagal nerve fibers connected up into ventral areas located in medulla oblongata/brainstem regions (of either aforementioned cranial organs), said nerves serve an integral role providing balance between these two states currently mentioned letting body’s reaction towards external influences become more regulated thus better enabling one staying healthy at psychological physical mental level alike even during stressful situations
The Role of the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve, a major component of the parasympathetic nervous system and longest amongst the cranial nerves, connects to many parts in our body. It is divided into two -the ventral vagal part and the dorsal vagal portion – both having different duties. With one playing an important role in triggering what we term as ‘dorsal vagal shutdown’ when faced with dangerous situations which cause us to become paralyzed or collapse due to its age old activation linked through our own bodies’ functioning.
Trauma has resulted in trauma induced changes within our autonomic responses such as those related to fight/flight mode & feeling safe while being surrounded by others – leading up eventually towards experiences that involve heightened alertness at all times accompanied Along from this also occurs increase chances for occurrence of ‘Vagal Shutdown’ on either side (this regarding separately for same).
Why Are We Experiencing Dorsal Vagal Shutdown Now?
In our hurried, stress-filled society nowadays, unresolved trauma and lingering tension are not uncommon, which increases the risk of experiencing dorsal vagal shutdown. When exposed to prolonged pressure, their nervous system remains in an ongoing state of “fight or flight”, rendering them susceptible to a complete decline in activity known as dorsal vagal shutdown.
Continually viewing life from a fearful perspective can take its toll on both mental and physical health. Disrupting productivity at work or school, damaging relationships with others and compromising personal recreation activities – all things that require us having insight into why chronic strain leads to this kind of phenomenon occurring within the nervous system (vagal/dorsal) so we know how better circumvent it.
Chronic Stress and Its Impact on the Nervous System
Chronic stress is an ongoing state of mental, physical and emotional strain caused by exposure to a troubling situation. This kind of stress alters the autonomic nervous system, which leads to sympathetic activation resulting in over-activation of the sympathetic nerves while under-activating parasympathetic ones. Dorsal vagal shutdown can cause people to suffer from dizziness, fatigue, depression or irritability among other things.
To counter these effects, self-regulation techniques should be adopted like forming support networks for assistance and adopting strategies that will help manage levels of distress better, such as nourishing your dorsal vagal nerve more often, etc. If one takes this into consideration, it helps balance out all three components within our nervous system – namely autonomous (sympathetic/parasympathetic) systems & also dorsal vagalshutdown due to offering much needed relief during difficult times associated with chronic tension.
Trauma and Its Effects on the Autonomic Nervous System
Traumatic events can lead to enduring physical, mental, and emotional repercussions. It may alter an individual’s ability to recognize safety cues while causing involuntary reactions when they are faced with a stimuli connected to danger. This increases the possibility of dorsal vagal shutdown. It is not unusual for those affected by trauma to be unable to have their environment as secure, even if it really is safe (which then increases the risk of ventral vagal disengagement), thus making attending traumas aftermaths crucial so we can rebalance our nervous system accordingly.
Recognizing the Signs of Dorsal Vagal Shutdown
Understanding how to recognize the signs of dorsal vagal shutdown is essential for avoiding long-term mental health issues. Knowing its physical and emotional indications can be instrumental in helping someone identify when their nervous system is shutting down, allowing them to take action towards restoring equilibrium with this type of vagal shutdown.
Individuals who experience dorsal vagal shutdown may suffer from physical symptoms like extreme fatigue, a lack of energy and being unable to think clearly. More serious cases can result in their heart rate dropping drastically, which could lead to difficulty breathing as well as disorientation or dizziness.
Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms
Dorsal vagal shutdown may present itself as an array of emotional and behavioral symptoms, including a feeling of helplessness, nervousness when around others or being in social situations, extreme tiredness coupled with crankiness/irritability that often changes without warning. A decrease in trust for oneself and those who surround them can be noted too along with disconnecting from their feelings (dissociation).
Interpersonal symptoms associated with dorsal vagal shutdown can be profoundly challenging. Individuals experiencing this state often feel mistrustful and suspicious of others, maintaining a safe emotional distance as a protective mechanism. They may also grapple with feelings of disconnection from their social environment, leading to sensations of derealization, where the world around them appears unreal or distorted.
Many report a profound sense of detachment, as if they are operating on autopilot or merely observing life as though they were a passive observer in a movie. These symptoms can hinder one’s ability to engage in meaningful and authentic social interactions, making it crucial to address and seek support for dorsal vagal activation to restore a healthy sense of connection and trust in relationships.
Strategies for Rebalancing the Nervous System
If signs of dorsal vagal shutdown are observed in yourself or someone else, you can take steps to restore balance within the autonomic nervous system. Self-regulation techniques and creating a support network can serve as great resources towards reducing symptoms related to dorsal vagal shutdown while also helping maintain overall wellbeing.
During difficult times, it is essential to use self-regulation techniques to restore balance in the autonomic nervous system. Such practices may include deep breaths, singing or humming. All of which will help increase vagal tone and uplift one’s mental state. As these activities can activate the ventral branch of the vagus nerve that encourages leisurely responses, they become beneficial for building a sounder relationship with stress levels as well as helping maintain an overall resilient central nervous system. Daily engagement with 4-7-8 breathing (inhaling for 4 seconds holding breath 7 seconds exhaling 8 sec) or box breathing exercises could also aid those seeking respite from distress while aiding emotional regulation capabilities over time.
Establishing a Support Network
For those dealing with dorsal vagal shutdown, rebalancing the nervous system is made possible through a reliable support network. This can include emotional and practical help from family members or friends, being part of a supportive group setting and receiving professional guidance if needed. To ensure that these links offer safety and trustworthiness, one should be aware of any red flags in order to promote successful anxiety management. Consequently, this will enable effective stress relief as well as establishing meaningful connections within their existing environment for improved overall wellness.
Preventing Dorsal Vagal Shutdown in the Future
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and properly managing stress can help lessen the chance of having an occurrence of dorsal vagal shutdown. Individuals should be utilizing effective strategies to manage their stress, as well as establishing supportive relationships with others in order to secure overall wellness and reduce the risks associated with experiencing such a form of vagal shutdown.
Stress Management Strategies
By incorporating mindful meditation and physical activity into one’s daily habits, a stronger autonomic nervous system can be built that is better able to combat against dorsal vagal shutdown. This ensures an overall more resilient nervous system that has the capability to weather life’s hardships in a healthier way.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Having a healthy lifestyle that consists of nourishing meals, sufficient sleep and strong social bonds will help sustain overall good health as well as reduce the chances of enduring dorsal vagal shutdown. Taking care to prioritize these elements is essential for establishing a nervous system which can endure any difficulties while having great flexibility when it comes to adapting to life’s issues.
In order to promote mental and physical wellbeing in these demanding times, it is important that we understand the impact of dorsal vagal shutdown. Self-regulation techniques, as well as a strong support system and healthy lifestyle choices can help restore balance within our nervous systems while preventing future instances from arising. Ultimately, prioritizing our health should be made a priority so that we may foster resilience and enjoy happier futures!
At the Bay Area CBT Center, our specialized Cognitive Behavioral Therapists focus on evidence-based treatments to help people overcome dorsal vagal shutdown. We offer individual therapy, group therapy, teletherapy, online courses, and workshops.
Frequently Asked Questions
In the intital consultation session, we will discuss your concerns, evaluate your needs, and give you a good sense of what we believe maintains your current problems. Together we will then explore therapeutic approaches that may help with the challenges you face. We will also consider our “fit” for working together. We believe it is important to find a therapist who is a good fit for you and who possesses qualities such as personality style, therapeutic stance, and values that resonate with you. Having an authentic and genuine connection with your therapist is essential.
If we believe that we can work well together, and if we agree on the target goals for therapy as well as the approach we will take, we will then begin our work in subsequent sessions. In the first few sessions, we will continually refine our assessment of your needs and your specific goals for therapy. We will continue to monitor your progress and goals throughout our time together.
Sessions are typically 50-minutes long once a week, although your therapist may recommend longer or more frequent sessions if needed. These sessions may be more appropriate for certain situations such as couples therapy, exposure therapy, and intensive treatment.
We work on a short-term model, however, not all problems are created equal. Typically, you and your therapist will device a custom plan that fits with your goals and how long you want to be in therapy. Some clients choose to complete a few sessions, where as others may continue for years. The commitment is really up to you.
If you and your therapist are not a good match, we are happy to offer you referrals within The Bay Area CBT Center, or we can make referrals to other therapists outside of our clinic.
Fees for psychotherapy sessions are based on the usual and customary rates for psychologists in the Bay Area. Payments can be made by check, cash, or credit card. Receipts and/or a superbill may be provided upon request.
- Fees for Individual Sessions: $225-$250 for a 50 minute session
- Fees for Couples Therapy: $250-$300 for a 60 minute session
- Fess for groups: $55-$75 for a 90 minute session
The Bay Area CBT Center is not on any insurance panels, therefore unless you have a PPO plan that accepts out of network providers, our services would not be covered. Our services are covered under most PPO insurance plans do provide coverage for mental health services and therefore if you have PPO plan you may be able to receive full or partial reimbursement depending on your insurance company. If you have a PPO plan that accepts out of network providers your therapist will provide you with a superbill to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. If you don’t know whether your insurance plan takes out of network providers you can call your insurance company and ask them the following questions (see below).
Also, for those that have FSA plans, individual counseling is typically a permissible expense (please confirm with your particular FSA plan or accountant).
Call the phone number on your insurance card and ask your insurance company the following questions:
- Do you accept and/or provide reimbursement for out-of-network providers?
- If so, what is the percentage that you reimburse for out-of-network providers?
- Do I need a particular diagnosis to get coverage for treatment?
- What is the amount of my deductible?
- What is the number of visits that I’m covered for? Do I have any limitations regarding number of sessions that are covered for an out of network provider?
- Do I need a referral from my primary care physician to a mental health professional?
The California Psychological Association provides specific information and suggestions regarding options for health coverage, including information about The Affordable Care Act/Obamacare in California.
If you need to reschedule or cancel an appointment, please do so within 48 hours of your scheduled appointment. You will be charged a full fee for any missed appointments that are not cancelled at least 48 hours in advance, except in case of an emergency.