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Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder caused by psychological trauma.

Trauma – an extreme stressor involving direct personal experience or observation of an event that involves threatened death or serious injury, or threat to one’s physical integrity. (These are events outside the range of “normal” or typical human daily experiences.)

The person’s response to the event(s) usually involves intense fear, helplessness or horror, even if they don’t realize it at the time. PTSD was first included in the official diagnostic manual of mental disorders in 1980. PTSD affects approximately 5% of the general population.

Traumatic experiences are extremely intense, completely overwhelming or life-threatening.

Many people believe that only soldiers get PTSD from war. This is not true. Clearly military combat and related events in the war zone can cause PTSD (such as being shot at, IEDs, picking up body parts after an explosion, seeing burned/charred bodies, cleaning up bloody remains, observing horrifying inhumane treatment of people, being a prisoner of war or in a concentration camp and living with your life constantly in danger).

However, many other types of traumatic experience in the civilian world can also cause PTSD. Examples include violent personal assault (sexual assault, physical attack, robbery, mugging), being kidnapped or taken hostage, terrorist attacks, torture, natural and human-caused disasters, severe automobile accidents and being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

Observation of these types of events without actually experiencing them directly can also lead to PTSD, if by seeing what happened, a person is completely horrified and/or overwhelmed by it.

Any person who has had this type of experience could possibly develop PTSD. However, not every person who has one or more of these potentially traumatizing experiences develops PTSD.

It is not exactly clear at this time why some people develop PTSD in response to traumatic experiences and some don’t. More research is being done in this area.

Warning: As negative and discouraging as the symptoms and effects of PTSD might be, please remember that there is hope and people do recover and get their lives back. Recovery Is Possible!

Some Common Symptoms of PTSD

  • Nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts
  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings, people or places that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoyed before the trauma(s) ever happened
  • Feeling rejected, threatened or distant from most people most of the time
  • Loss of the ability to have positive feelings; emotional numbing or blunting of feelings
  • Feeling consistently pessimistic about the future
  • Staying extremely alert and on guard ever since the traumatic event
  • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Being easily angered or upset
  • Concentration problems (trouble keeping your mind on track; losing focus frequently)
  • An exaggerated startle response (i.e., being “overly jumpy”)
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Self-destructive or reckless behavior

Ways PTSD Can Affect a Person’s Life

  • Poor attention and concentration; trouble staying focused
  • Often feeling confused or bewildered
  • Expecting the worst most of the time
  • Skeptical of most things; usually don’t trust people
  • Always wondering “Just what do they want?” or “What is their ulterior motive?”
  • Disgust at incompetence, lackadaisical attitudes or what we perceive as stupidity
  • Fear of the traumas happening again
  • Fear of losing control of yourself and doing something you might regret
  • Fear of overwhelming emotions; grief, rage, anger or shock
  • Depression, guilt and shame
  • Emotional numbing (feelings get shut down or blocked out in an effort to protect yourself)
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep often adds to extreme fatigue
  • Physical hyper arousal; increased startle response (jump at every little thing)
  • Lack of physical self-care (poor hygiene, diet, sleep, neglected physical appearance)
  • Multiple medical problems are common
  • Being susceptible to stress-related illnesses; never take any “down time” for yourself
  • Severe wear and tear on the body
  • Feel detached, threatened or rejected most of the time
  • Isolation; avoid people most of the time if possible. Don’t get too close to anyone.
  • Don’t let anyone get close to you for fear of hurting them or losing them
  • Frequent arguments; strained relationships; multiple marriages
  • Feel like you don’t fit in (anywhere); often wind up feeling rejected
  • Drug and alcohol abuse; workaholism; other addictions
  • Panic attacks; uncontrollable worry
  • Frequent job changes or unemployment
  • Physical complaints or illnesses
  • Family problems; legal problems

Remember: People do recover and heal! Please be willing to seek out and accept some help from a competent therapist who has compassion for the intense pain you are experiencing.

A safe and easy way to start is to take the online PTSD classes from the safety of your own home. Start with the sample videos below, or visit our Classes page to view all PTSD classes.

View Free Sample Classes

All of our therapists provide specialized treatment for PTSD and other trauma-related conditions. Call and speak with our friendly staff to schedule your appointment.