Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is our body/mind response to trauma. The DSM IV describes it as “the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct person al experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s personal integrity.” It goes on to include “witnessing an event that involves death, injury or a threat to the personal integrity of another person.”
Events that may perpetuate the onset of PTSD are wide and varied and can include, but are not limited to, rape, war, terrorism, auto accidents, violent personal assault such as a robbery or mugging, incarceration, serious injury, serious accident, sexual molestation as a child, or being diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Sometimes these incidents are obvious to the one who is suffering symptoms and sometimes the sufferer has incorporated the traumatic event into her/his life as being “normal”. An example of this normalization might be an adult who, as a child, listened to or witnessed a parent’s recurrent suicidal gesturing or ideation and came to view it as “just something dad did”. Another example may be someone who does not recognize as being “traumatic” the constant verbal or physical abuse of one parent to another when they we a child.
The important thing to remember is that there is help available for PTSD. It is treated in a variety of ways including EMDR and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing. Talking through the incident, recognizing it as trauma, feeling the feelings appropriate to the event (anger, sadness, etc.), identifying and ridding oneself of any negative thoughts about oneself because of the event (It was my fault, I should have stopped it etc.) are crucial to recovery.
If you experience at least six (6) of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from PTSD. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, please contact one of our counselors for help. Otherwise, please seek help from someone in your area who specializes in this area.
- Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the trauma
- Recurrent distressing dreams of the event or trauma
- Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were still occurring
- Intense psychological distress at exposure to events that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event, including anniversaries of the event
- Psychological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble the trauma
- Efforts to avoid thoughts/feelings/conversations associated with the trauma
- Efforts to avoid activities/places/people that arouse recollections
- Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
- Marked diminished interest in significant activity
- Feeling detachment or estranged from others
- Restricted range of feelings
- Sense of a foreshortened future (do not expect to have a marriage, children, normal lifespan, career etc.)
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exaggerated startle response