WASHINGTON, March 6, 2014 – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) happens to those who experience an event or situation that has a major impact leaving him or her vulnerable to emotional overload. An example is the Vietnam Vet who hears a loud bang and runs for cover under a bed. Another example might be a person who is afraid of the water because he watched his mother drown.
For some it takes only a single event to cause this over-‐reaction to stimuli. For others it could the culmination of numerous events or even years of related situations, which eventually activates the PTSD.
The one thing they all have in common is that there is a trigger or triggers that set off unhealthy reactions.
When PTSD affects someone, there are any numbers of things that can elicit a response. Most people have natural defenses to protect them from emotional overload. But for some, that wall is fractured,allowing little bits and pieces to get though that produce unhealthy responses. After a while, even though these triggers are dysfunctional responses, they become normalized or part of a natural response system. (Moy, 2014) For example, an abusive ex spouse can be the impetus for a trigger. For this person, anything or anyone who slightly resembles their ex triggers them to act verbally or violently toward that innocent person.
PTSD sufferers may believe if it is normal to have these exaggerated responses or they may know they are not appropriate but have gotten so used to them that they think they are normal.
There are questions that can help identify whether you suffer from PTSD. But is your every day life functioning okay? Are you able to negotiate the highs and lows? Are you able to stop and think before jumping to rash behaviors or comments? Or are you having issues with sudden bouts of fear, anxiety and so on? Does someone who looks similar to your ex trigger anxiety? Does something someone says that sounds like the ex, trigger a reaction? Or if someone moves in a way, does it remind them of their ex? Just a smell, a voice, a noise, mannerisms, thoughts patterns that are similar to an ex can trigger a PTSD response.
These dysfunctional responses can range from mild to moderate to debilitating. The false PTSD triggers can also create poor response mechanisms, often initiating damages upon innocent victims. (Moy, 2014)
But why do some people get affected while others do not? Some people have what is called resiliency. They have the ability to bounce back or self-‐soothe after an upsetting event. Others are not so resilient. This could be for a multitude of reasons, including their upbringing or lack of learning coping skills as a child. For example, they may have suffered a traumatic event as a child that was not managed properly.
To have a better idea of what classifies PTSD, below is a list of the signs and symptoms that a professional would use to recognize PTSD but that anyone could utilize for themselves? Taken from the DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Diagnosis.
- Repetitive and intrusive event memories that replay over in the mind.
- Reoccurring dreams including day dreams.
- Overly sensitive or extreme over reaction to minor things
- Feelings or flashbacks of an event or events reoccurring in real time
- Avoidance of Triggers, such as not going to the supermarket or getting in an elevator because that was a place of a debilitating memory.
- Depressive behaviors such as any of the following:
Loss of interest in once favorite things/activities/friends
Feelings of loss
Limited range of emotions, no gray areas, just black or white
Lack of a positive future
Hyper-‐vigilance – overly sensitive
Does this mean that a person with PTSD cannot be a good parent or function in society? Of course not! It is just that we need help modulating and controlling our over-‐reactions to these stimuli that trigger our PTSD.
What it does mean is that we need to take care of our selves. We need to be able to critically think and know when we it is time to reach out for counseling or some form of therapeutic treatment or even learning how to meditate. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) facilitates change by helping us to recognize triggers and teaching us better ways to respond.
Or Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), a form of CBT, which includes Buddhist theories, can help us to move forward in a positive way, coupled with emotional regulation, reality testing and so on.
Valerie Utton, in her book, Letters of Apology, (p. 45-‐50) talks about being “drawn into someone else’s drama” and how it can be debilitating and difficult to change this mindset. She goes on about it not being our fault that “people do what they do for their own reason.” When viciously attacked and accused of heinous things, we need to step back and realize that these people have their own issues that are causing them to act this way. It is not necessarily anything to do with any of us but it is this person or persons “private agendas” that are influencing their behavior. It is not easy to ignore these attacks but with time and patience, you do get better at it. And once you can put yourself in their position, it makes it easier to understand and keeps us from overreacting.
There are many other ways to resolve PTSD, get control of it, or to not let someone else’s PTSD affect you. The key is having a positive attitude to help one move forward.
My favorite motto is HHSS. It stands for Happy Healthy, Successful and Spiritually Positive. Success is not money but what and where you do or go in your life that makes you feel good about being you. Spirituality is not about religion but about believing in yourself or something else. You may not have this everyday of your life, but it something important to strive for.
This attitude can help us to overcome many of the obstacles in our lives. We just need to recognize when it is time to ask for help.
Citation: Moy, Allison, LCSW, 88 South Main Street, Southbury, CT 06488. 203-262-8150 Utton, MS. Ed., Valerie, Letters of Apology, 2007/2011, Inkwell Productions