PTSD Therapy Discussion with Dr. Jesse Hatgis
Through my outreach efforts with Hope for Invisible Wounds, I was able to meet Dr. Jesse Hatgis. He’s utilizing a new therapy for the treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I interviewed him about this treatment and his personal connection to working in this field.
Read more below to learn about his story and this groundbreaking treatment:
Tell me about yourself:
Thank you for having me, Courtney. I am a double board-certified osteopathic pain management/physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with a special interest in PTSD.
What is PTSD? A lot of people associate PTSD as something only our nations troops get during deployments, but in reality, it can happen to anyone. Can you help provide an explanation?
It is a physical, psychological and emotional stress disorder or injury caused by a traumatic event. There is increased activation of the "fight or flight" system, with a large overlap of symptoms among individuals with PTSD and depression and anxiety.
The following are the main signs of PTSD:
Avoidance of places, people, and/or situations
Feelings of detachment
Increased startle response
Sleep disturbances in the form of nightmares and flashbacks of the causative event(s).
Visual and/or auditory hallucinations
Emotional distance in relationships
PTSD is extremely under-diagnosed. It extends beyond the popular media portrayal of military veterans, police officers, firefighters and first responders trying to cope. Many individuals affected by physical, psychological and emotional abuse, as well as those exposed to terrorism, natural disasters and motor vehicle accidents are particularly susceptible to developing PTSD.
Many people are struggling through life without ever being formally diagnosed with PTSD and/or are being treated for related conditions such as depression, anxiety and drug or alcohol addictions and dependency. Furthermore, there does not need to be a memory of the traumatic event for PTSD to develop.
What have you been doing to help PTSD patients?
As you know, there is a desperate need to help individuals suffering with PTSD; however, almost all treatment options currently available actually fail to effectively treat PTSD symptoms. I decided to establish a medical group called ‘PTSD Group’ that uses a specific injection treatment with an approximately 80% success rate, which far surpasses any other known treatment method for PTSD.
I administer the Stellate Ganglion Block, also known as ‘The PTSD Injection.’ It’s a very quick procedure, usually performed in under 5 minutes. In a majority of cases, it takes only 1-2 minutes from start to finish.
That sounds really interesting. What does that entail?
I’m trained in minimally invasive spinal procedures of the cervical spine, which allows me to perform it without significant discomfort. It is technically extremely simple compared to many other surgeries/procedures I do for my chronic pain patients.
The injection is placed on the side of the neck at a very specific location, visualized by a special x-ray camera. I then numb the skin overlying that area, place the needle, ensure proper placement several different ways, and lastly inject the medication.
The effects are typically noticed almost immediately after the medication is administered, and the effects are usually long lasting.
That sounds like it’s really helping people. Are you seeing it starting to grow in popularity?
The Stellate Ganglion Block is not a common treatment method. Only a handful of physicians worldwide perform the injection for PTSD. Fortunately, it is gaining popularity due to its unbelievable success. Once the majority of patients undergo the injection, they will substantially lower their dosage and frequency of psychiatric medications related to PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The need for pills and/or psychological therapy to feel “normal” is diminished or completely abolished. They have more energy, positivity, and are more receptive to mending broken relationships
What is the biggest challenge of “moving the needle” in recovery from PTSD?
The most difficult part is having the opportunity to properly educate PTSD victims and their support systems about the injection. Once people hear about this technique, especially after having explored all other known options, they are often excited to try it.
Why do you personally believe this form of treatment is effective?
It simply works. You need to see it to believe it. I certainly needed to see it myself in order to believe it. I was approached by a friend whose nephew suffered major physical, emotional and psychological trauma from a serious motor vehicle accident. Prior to the accident, he was a happy person, had a great relationship with his significant other, and was well focused on his career. Ever since the accident, he was not the same person. He suffered from extreme anxiety while driving or riding in cars, had difficulty concentrating on simple tasks, experienced problems with interpersonal relationships (especially with his girlfriend), and he was limited to working only sporadic part time jobs. His mind was fixated on the memory of the accident, and he was emotionally reacting to it. Traditional therapy and medications, unfortunately, did not help. He turned to illicit substances to numb the pain. His life was in shambles. He thought about suicide on a number of occasions. He desperately needed help. I then was asked to perform the injection on him.
After doing my research, there appeared to be solid evidence for this to work and without negative side effects. At this point, what was the patient going to lose? What harm could one little injection do? I decided to do it.
Now, let me also mention that this was not my first time performing the Stellate Ganglion Block. I had been doing these injections for years for treating patients with a chronic pain. This friend knew about my SGB expertise, which is why he sought me out.
Long story short, I performed the injection. It was quick and the patient said it was painless. He also said his anxiety was gone instantly. To me, it was astonishing to see. To him, it was cathartic. Since then, he has ceased using psychiatric medications and illicit substances to deal with the painful memories. He drives and rides in a car without fear, has maintained a great relationship with his girlfriend and works more hours. Although the memory of the crash is still present on occasion, the associated emotional reaction and anxiety is no longer there.
This procedure was the most rewarding experience of my medical career. Suffice to say, I was hooked. I was all in on making the Stellate Ganglion Block an available treatment option to anyone wishing to get better from PTSD.
What is your personal connection to this cause?
I am a New Yorker, born and raised. My life changed forever on 9/11 when my studies were interrupted with news of the terrorist attacks. Although I lived and attended classes a few miles east of Ground Zero on Long Island, the impact on the community and my life was earth shattering. I could still envision the news reports. I must have watched those buildings fall down thousands of times over the next few days. The putrid stench of jet fuel and death carried east by the black cloud of smoke for the next week is permanently burned into my nostrils. It is a miracle that I did not know anyone who died at Ground Zero that day. Although a close friend who was a NYPD detective died over a decade later from bone marrow cancer secondary to toxic chemical exposure. Relatives in Manhattan ran home covered in soot and had no communication for days afterwards. It was a scary time.
Despite the obvious tragedy, this event made New York and the nation stronger. The camaraderie people had when push came to shove was nothing short of remarkable. I gained an even more profound appreciation for the firefighters, police officers and first responders who put their lives at risk to help those in need.
Everyone who lived there has their own personal story of the events that unfolded. Each story I have heard has been captivating. The ones that hit the deepest involve these fine Service members developing PTSD without any treatment providing them with a light at the end of the tunnel.
Fast forward years later. After treating the gentleman in the car accident with much success, I came to a profound realization: We could potentially treat these firefighters, police officers and first responders! What an honor that would be!
Well, we have done just that. And let me say that words cannot describe how rewarding it is, not just for the patient, but for me as well!
Thank you for sharing that! That’s an amazing story! Last question before I let you go. If you could have any federal legislation regarding mental health, what would it be?
I am in support of any legislation that could increase the availability of mental health resources for those in need.
Thank you again for having me. I really appreciate the work that you are doing by using your personal story and social platform to bring awareness to this condition.
Please visit my group’s website (www.ptsdgroup.com) to learn more about the science behind the treatment, frequently asked questions (FAQ’s), our physicians’ credentials, location, and eligibility to undergo the Stellate Ganglion Block.