Sheila Rauch, PhD: Measuring How PTSD Affects the Body in Addition to the Mind

Looking at a person’s heart rate, skin conductance, or other ways the physical body reacts to the stressors of PTSD offers providers a more nuanced path toward understanding how PTSD impacts a person’s life and in what ways treatments can alter those physical and emotional reactions.

Sheila Rauch, PhD is the deputy director of the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program.

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We look at a lot of physiological measures from lots of different biological systems. We’ll look at heart rates, skin conductance, different ways that your body reacts to stressors over time. Some of those things, we know from past research, are related specifically to PTSD, that people with PTSD, as opposed to other anxiety disorders or not PTSD, will have reactivity in certain systems. And we examine those as well as the self-report measures to try and get a nuanced look at how PTSD is impacting this person and especially to see whether we’re changing self-reports, of course, but also changing those biological systems with these treatments ’cause we want people to be able to do the things that they want, and part of that would be changing those biological systems that have been altered by PTSD. BrainLine is powered in part by Wounded Warrior Project to honor and empower post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families.

Posted on BrainLine September 24, 2021. Reviewed September 24, 2021.

About the author: Sheila A.M. Rauch, PhD, ABPP

Sheila A.M. Rauch, PhD, ABPP, is the Deputy Director of the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program and Director of Mental Health Research and Program Evaluation at the VA Atlanta Healthcare System. Dr. Rauch has been developing programs, conducting research and providing PTSD and Anxiety Disorders treatment for over 20 years. Her research focuses on examination of mechanisms involved in the development and treatment of PTSD and improving access to effective interventions.

Professional headshot of Dr. Sheila Rauch smiling at the camera, wearing glasses in a royal blue top