PTSD / Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome - The Basics and the Personal

This week I took an in-depth look at post-traumatic stress syndrome... otherwise known as PTSD. My experience with PTSD is both personal and community orientated. Some of my family knows that I have this diagnosis, but for those that do not... I am coming out of the closet ;) I was diagnosed with PTSD three years ago stemming from experiences that occurred before I was eighteen in my parent's household. (I am not trying to be mean about my parents … I frankly think at this point that they did the best they knew how and complaining or blaming doesn't change anything.) I have some friends who also suffer from this disorder and some acquaintances who struggle with it so badly that they really find it difficult to get through the day... every day. One challenge that people with this disorder face every day is that this problem isn't normally visible to the world around them. Unlike someone who is in a wheelchair or has a different physical problem, the world around you doesn't know for the most part that you need certain care, what that care is, etc... So when a situation changes and puts the individual into instinctual action, everyone surrounding you for the most part is unprepared to deal with it and the individual themselves just struggles to hold themselves together and pull their mind and feelings back to the present.

So for those individuals that do not know much about post traumatic stress disorder, let me share some of the basics. PTSD is usually caused by events that happen to a person (or persons) that are out of the ordinary and which someone's 'life or integrity' is at risk, affected, etc... The action can happen to the person or someone can develop this disorder from witnessing something severely challenging. When described in those words it seems (at least to me) like something simple and most simple things are easy to fix. From my own personal experience as well as the experiences that have been shared with me by friends or family, it is not simple at all. Another thing that I have noticed in my experiences is that PTSD is different and is responded to differently by anyone who has it and when I asked about that idea at a conference last year I was told that happens because people's personalities and how they handle and react to things initially are different and also their experiences and how they feel about them are different. Some healthcare professionals also believe that PTSD is more likely to affect 'vulnerable people' such as those with fewer defense mechanisms, fewer safe resources in family and friends, people with low self esteem, etc.... and others believe that getting the disorder could cause the self esteem, defense problems, etc... (Reminds me a little bit of the age old question of which came first... the chicken or the egg.) While most people have heard of PTSD being a consequence for soldiers who have experienced military combat, it is also common for victims of abuse, rape, torture and more. If there is one part of the definition that seems a bit challenging to define, it's 'out of the ordinary world experience'...? Wouldn't that also depend on the individual involved and what was normal for them? A good reason that even defining what causes the disorder can be difficult!

Even though the exact description of the problem isn't precise, the symptoms of PTSD are very easily defined. There are three categories that symptoms can easily be placed in; re-experience, avoidance, and arousal. Here is a basic breakdown of what those categories cover.

1. Re-experience - These symptoms include flashbacks and /or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or much longer. Some people get difficult dreams about the traumatic event(s)

2. Avoidance - Some symptoms include the attempt to try to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event, avoiding activities or people that you used to enjoy, feeling hopeless and anxiety about the future, difficulty with memory as well as emotional challenges (such as feeling numb or unable to feel much), and difficulty concentrating as well as maintain close, personal relationships.

3. Arousal - Some symptoms people may feel are increased anxiety, irritability / anger, trouble sleeping, being easily startled, frightened (jumpy), large quantities of guilt or shame, self destructive behavior in an attempt at self medicating or suppressing the problem, and even other mental disorders that can be caused by the heightened emotional and mental challenges

One thing that I spent a lot of time thinking about was the difference between remembering the experience and reliving it. At first, I didn't see much of a difference, but the more I thought about it ... I realized there is a very big difference! One thing that came to mind, I thought about a few people I know and how this disorder affects the way they do things. I thought of a friend who tends to make chaos in every situation she is in and it gives her something to feel good about and also sets her up as a victim if people get angry at her. She also misinterprets facial expressions and if some one gives her a quizzical look, she is enraged and will shun or try to hurt that person for weeks in her anger... yet also separates herself from anyone but family as well at that time. She never sleeps well and has migraines approximately twelve days of the month. One reason I was interested in this subject was that I want to understand how to help people dealing with trauma better than I do so that maybe I can be of help to others as they struggle. Maybe I can learn how to understand myself better and not have so much fear behind the 'smile'. My friend also fears the future and her children are their mother's PTSD? Not sure and that is just speculation on my part. I really wish there was something I could do for her, but I really can't figure anything out.

There are many treatments out there for this condition, but as people are different they are not always as successful as they could be. Doctors used medications as well as counseling and other therapies to try and help patients. I use medication and prayer as well as an anti-depressant and try to avoid situations which can cause me more challenges and panic. For the most part, that really helps me to do the things I need to and want to do comfortably and not have problems... which is a wonderful thing! I know that some brain problems an be helped by therapy to 'change' the wiring of the brain such as in sensory integration disorder (SID), sensory processing disorder (SPD), etc... I wonder if PTSD is more challenging than some disorders such as the ones I just mentioned because PTSD is something that was forced 'onto' the body and not an original part of it......

I would love to hear some of your thoughts... Do any of you have experience in helping people (or yourself) with this problem? What has been successful and helpful for you? If any of my readers feel comfortable sharing, please feel free to continue the conversation and we can learn together. :)


  1. Welcome to the ptsd club! This is really interesting. In this talk she talks about not only ptsd, but also it's counterpart that is post traumatic growth and how to create resilience!

  2. Another thing that I have found is that no one understands! Unless, they themselves have experienced it, they don't get it. So, I've heard a lot of "so get over it!" Ummmm....right! If you complete that sentence in my case, it would sound like this, "So, your ex...the man you slept with, ate breakfast with, lived with, and trusted assaulted and then tried to murder you! Get over it!" That brings to light how callous and uncaring it really is to assume someone can just walk on through that and be okay! But, they don't have the emotional experience to get it! But, I'm rambling! Check out the video...it's really good. And check out her game. It's called SUPERBETTER!

  3. http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life.html

  4. Have to drop by and add the folks who don't "believe" you because they thought they knew the person...apparently, better than you did! pffftttt That adds to the pain and trauma experienced. But, they are doing their best...I hope. lol