5/29/2023 0 Comments
What is PTSD? Where did it come from?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD was first given its full name in 1980 in the DSM-III. However, PTSD had many names throughout the centuries. It was first recognized in combat veterans well over 2000 years ago as documented by Hippocrates in 4607-377 BC. The effects of combat stress and flashbacks were very common then and now with other symptoms as outlined in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. It was long believed that PTSD was limited to veterans, but later determined many people can experience this disorder due to a variety of factors.
Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. This could occur to a person physical, emotional, and psychologically. People can experience trauma in a variety of different ways through the impact of natural disasters (fire, flood, famine, earthquake, tornados, hurricane, tsunamis, and petulance). They may be the victim of interpersonal violence, be a victim to community violence, early childhood trauma, medical trauma, physical/sexual/verbal abuse, sex trafficking, leaving a war-torn country as a refugee, terrorism, or even traumatic loss.
Many individuals may never experience these traumas in their lifetime, but for those that do, it can be:
1. Acute (one incident, one time)
2. Chronic (exposure over a long period of time)
3. Complex (a variety of traumatic events and exposed over a long period of time often interpersonal in nature).
Each will have its effect on the mind, body, and spirit. For those of us in the helping industries (counselors, social workers, medical staff, first responders) often experience what we call secondary trauma or vicarious trauma.
So what is PTSD? What are the symptoms?
PTSD Symptoms are a culmination of different factors. There are 4 main areas for consideration.
1. Intrusion- Intrusions look like intrusive thoughts, repeated, involuntary dreams, memories, flashbacks of the traumatic event. It is not uncommon for people to report that he dreams or flashbacks are so vivid that they feel as if they are reliving the event.
2. Avoidance- Avoidance of reminders of the event by avoiding people, places, objects, situations that cause a distressing memory or feeling. They avoid sounds, smells, lights and the like that resemble what they experienced. So think on a small scale, if you ever were in a minor car accident you may avoid driving, driving by a certain intersection, etc. Those who have had major car accidents may avoid this long-term impacting their ability to go places due to their experiences.
3. Changes in cognition and mood including inability to remember important aspects, negative feelings and distorted belief about themselves or others, resulting in blaming ongoing strong emotions such as fear, anger, shame, guilt or even horror. Often people will experience feeling dissociation or being detached to themselves or others, or the difficulty with experiencing happiness or personal enjoyment.
4. Arousal and Reactivity. These often leave a person more irritable, increased anger, behaving more reckless or self-destructive. They may become more hypervigilant and suspect of others’ behaviors or their surroundings. Difficulty with sleep is not uncommon, concentration challenges and startles easily.
Well, I have all the symptoms for PTSD, now what?
Be sure to meet with a qualified mental health professional to be assessed and rule out any other issues that may also present similarly. If one does not have experiences of trauma but has difficulty with sleeping, they are going to have difficulties with cognition, being on edge and moody. Not everyone who experiences trauma will go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). So it is important to meet with a professional to rule things out.
We complete a long diagnostic interview and assessments and will often discuss you following up with your medical providers as well to rule out medical issues that you may or may not be aware of.
Treatments can include a variety of different therapies and sometimes in conjunction with medication from a qualified psychiatrist prescribing. Different therapies may include cognitive therapies, interpersonal, supportive, psychodynamic, prolonged exposure, somatic, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing or even Accelerated Resolution Therapy. Your counselor will help you decide what is the best option for you as you work together to develop your treatment plan.
Am I broken for good?
The short answer is No. With the help of therapy, learning new skills and a supportive community and spiritual practices many people go on to live a full life, and not impacted by the symptoms long term. There are some who struggle and will need ongoing support through therapies for awhile, but many people are able to receive therapy and move forward in life. While I’d love to tell you it will only be 1 session or 3, often it's quite a bit more sessions. Your individual therapist will be able to guide you in what your treatment plan will look like depending on your current circumstances and point you to specialty treatments as needed.
Aimee Rhodes, MS, LPC-S and Doctoral Candidate for Global Training and Development. Aimee is co-owner of Transform & Renew Counseling. She enjoys working with her clients as well as training the next level of clinicians through their educational practicum and internship processes.
Elizabeth Oldham is an LPC-S and co-founder of Transform & Renew, PLLC. She specializes in co-dependency, anxiety and OCD, depression and mood disorders.