Decorticate Posturing: Causes and Symptoms
The causes of decorticate posturing are not fully understood. The symptoms of this condition vary from person to person.
Some people have no symptoms while others experience only mild discomfort or even no symptoms at all. There may be other conditions such as a heart murmur, which can cause the same symptoms as decorticate posturing.
Symptoms of Decorticate Posturing:
A feeling of uneasiness or fear when someone appears near your home or workplace. You feel like you cannot relax in social situations.
You may feel anxious and nervous around strangers. Sometimes it makes you feel like running away from them.
You may have difficulty concentrating during lectures, meetings with colleagues, and even when talking on the phone with friends. You might become irritable if asked to do something that requires concentration.
You may have trouble sleeping. You might get up several hours before your usual time to go to sleep.
Some people report that they feel like their mind is going blank when they are under stress or anxiety. They sometimes think that there is nothing but thoughts and images swirling inside their head and that they cannot control what happens next.
This feeling of “mind going blank” is sometimes associated with decorticate posturing.
Some people report that they have strange feelings in their stomach, chest, or heart. They might also feel a pain or discomfort in the chest that comes and goes suddenly especially when they are anxious.
You may have problems with your appetite. You might feel nauseous and vomit for no apparent reason.
You might also have an upset stomach and diarrhoea.
You may develop a tremor in one or both hands when you are under stress. The tremor can affect the way you hold objects and make it difficult to perform fine tasks such as writing or turning pages in a book.
When to See a Doctor about Decorticate Posturing:
Seek immediate attention if you experience chest pains, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or sudden weight loss.
See your doctor as soon as possible if you feel excessively worried or anxious most of the time for no reason.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you feel a tremor when you are under stress.
What Happens to Your Body When You Experience Decorticate Posturing:
For no particular reason, you might suddenly start feeling worried or anxious for no apparent reason. These feelings last from a few minutes to several hours and even days.
While they are happening, you might also notice physical symptoms such as a raised heart rate, shakiness, aches and pains, shortness of breath, sweating, dry mouth, and muscular tension.
There is no medical condition that directly causes anxiety or panic attacks. However, they can be caused by a number of factors that affect your body and brain.
The factors that can cause anxiety or panic attacks include:
Genetic factors: If a close family member has experienced anxiety, you are more likely to have anxiety yourself.
Medical conditions: There are several medical conditions that can contribute to anxiety such as hypoglycaemia, hyperthyroidism, and heart disease.
Substance use: The abuse of certain drugs or the withdrawal from certain drugs can contribute to anxiety.
Stressful events: Sometimes stressful events such as accidents, financial problems, or relationship problems can trigger anxiety.
Hormone imbalance: There are studies that indicate that low levels of the hormones epinephrine and serotonin can cause anxiety.
A traumatic event: A single event that is really frightening can cause a person to develop anxiety.
What is Happening in Your Body When You Experience Decorticate Posturing:
There are several theories about what happens in the body during an anxiety or panic attack. Most of these theories explain symptoms that you experience during the attack.
These symptoms include nervousness, shakiness, tightened muscles, shortness of breath, palpitations, dry mouth, sweating, and nausea.
One theory is that the symptoms are caused by a sudden and extreme increase in adrenaline. Another theory is that the symptoms are caused by a decrease in serotonin, which is a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate mood.
A popular theory is the safety behaviour theory. This theory holds that anxiety develops when people associate certain safety behaviours with a decreased fear response.
An example of this would be a person who starts to use public transport because they feel safer there during an anxiety attack. After the attack is over, however, they are afraid to get off the bus and assume that if they had stayed on the bus, their fear would not have worsened. They then never leave the bus again and therefore become more and more afraid of being in the situation that caused the anxiety attack.
How to Stop an Attack When it Starts:
When you start to experience an anxiety attack, there are a number of steps that can help you to stop it or to lessen its effects. The first of these is to stop any safety behaviours that you are doing.
For example, if you are leaving a room or getting into your car, don’t keep looking behind you to see what people think of you. Instead, allow yourself to feel the anxiety and continue what you need to be doing.
The next step is to stop trying to control your breathing and just let it happen naturally. The third step is to try to distract yourself and think of something else.
The fourth step is leave the situation if you can do so without too much anxiety. Finally, whenever possible, find a calm and safe place where you can feel okay and not anxious.
The success of these steps will be different for different people. You will need to experiment to find out which one works best for you.
For example, for some people thinking of pleasant thoughts is an effective way to stop an anxiety attack. For others, it makes the situation worse. The key is to try to stay in control and accepting of your experience without judging it as good or bad.
What Causes Severe Decorticate Posturing or Lying:
Decorticate posturing occurs as a result of damage to the upper part of the brain stem. This damage interrupts the natural sleep-wake cycle and causes you to have difficulty falling asleep.
As a result, you can suffer from sleep deprivation, which in turn can cause you to develop severe anxiety and even paranoia.
The effects of sleep deprivation are not limited to anxiety, however. Lack of sleep affects many different parts of the brain and can cause you to experience a number of different symptoms.
For example, you might experience severe hallucinations, mood disturbances and a number of other problems. These symptoms can be reversed if the cause of the sleep deprivation is discovered and reversed quickly enough.
Treating Severe Decorticate Posturing or Lying:
The key to treating this condition is to find the cause of your anxiety and treat it effectively. This may involve seeing a psychiatrist for regular therapy sessions, taking medication or some combination of the two approaches.
If you suffer from sleep deprivation, you may need to see a sleep specialist as well.
There are a number of different anxiety disorders. Each has its own causes and requires its own treatment approach.
The first step in overcoming your anxiety problems is to visit your doctor and get a proper diagnosis of your condition and give you the right treatment plan to help you overcome the condition. Decorticate posturing or lying is just one of many types of anxiety disorders that can affect you.
Sources & references used in this article:
Decorticate, decerebrate and opisthotonic posturing and seizures in Kenyan children with cerebral malaria by R Idro, G Otieno, S White, A Kahindi… – Malaria …, 2005 – malariajournal.biomedcentral.com
Reversible decerebrate and decorticate postures in hepatic coma by JP Conomy, M Swash – New England Journal of Medicine, 1968 – Mass Medical Soc
Reversible decerebrate posturing secondary to hypoglycemia by DG Seibert – The American journal of medicine, 1985 – Elsevier
Decorticate posture following ‘cardiac cocktail’ by GH Cohen, A Casta, DW Sapire, A Talabi – Pediatric cardiology, 1982 – Springer
A previously healthy adolescent with acute encephalopathy and decorticate posturing by Y Kawai, AG DeMonbrun, RS Chambers, DA Nolan… – Pediatrics, 2017 – Am Acad Pediatrics
Decerebrate And Decorticate Posturing by J Knight, LC Decker – StatPearls [Internet], 2020 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov