Not Just Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Most people have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder. In our culture, we think about it most often with military veterans, but the truth is anyone who has experienced trauma is vulnerable to PTSD.

What is PTSD? PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. What causes PTSD for one person may not cause it for another. Most professionals think of PTSD not so much as a disorder but as a normal mental, emotional, and physical response to extraordinary circumstances. It does not mean you are broken. The good news about PTSD is it is treatable.

According to the VA, there are 4 types of PTSD symptoms, and these are true not just for military veterans, but for anyone who suffers from PTSD. You do not have to be experiencing all of these to have PTSD, and even if your symptoms are mild, it does not mean the trauma is not affecting your life. Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place.

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You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:

The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
    • You may have nightmares.
    • You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
    • You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
    • You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
    • You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
    • If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
    • You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.
  3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings
    • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
    • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
    • You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)
    • You may have a hard time sleeping.
    • You may have trouble concentrating.
    • You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
    • You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.

People who have symptoms of PTSD tend to be susceptible to co-morbidities, or other disorders related to the trauma. If you’ve tried to quit drinking or using drugs, dealing with your anxiety, or battling depression without any luck, it is possible that trauma is complicating your recovery.

You may still need treatment for any of the above disorders along with trauma therapy, but if trauma is the underlying cause of other disorders, in order to recover, the trauma must be dealt with. There is so much hope in trauma treatment. Please call us at 843-501-1099. We have several counselors trained in therapy techniques to manage the symptoms of trauma, and we are here to help.

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