Trauma: PTSD & Complex PTSD

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Trauma

I won’t bore you with lots of trauma-related jargon, I promise.

Trauma may be loosely defined as a highly distressing – perhaps even terrifying – experience that overwhelms your resources or capacity to cope with it and changes the beliefs about yourself, others, and the world toward the negative.

Sometimes your very own life (physical body) is threatened during a traumatic event (for example: mass shootings, tornadoes, car accidents); sometimes it is not (for example: being constantly ridiculed as a child, the loss of a loved one).

Some people’s brains usually cope with and assimilate these unusual experiences within a few weeks; however, other people’s brains do not. Therefore, these people may go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

This is important; therefore, it might be worth emphasizing: To some extent after surviving a trauma everybody experiences PTSD symptoms, so this is a NORMAL brain reaction to abnormal events (even if you can cope with the event). You are not crazy!

At The Mighty website somebody described PTSD like this:

“It’s like you’re tidying your house before a dinner party. But there’s this one item that’s just out of place. The doorbell rings. It’s your guests. You just shove that item into the closet and tell yourself you’ll deal with it later. You start to do this every time. Filling the closest more and more. Saying to yourself that you’ll deal with it later. The closet becomes so full that it starts to creak. That’s your body’s way of saying, ‘Hey! You got a lot of stuff to deal with! It’s time!’ But you keep thinking it’s fine. Out of sight, out of mind. You ignore the closet. Until one day it’s too much. The closet bursts. And everything comes flying out in weird and wacky ways. Panic attacks. Dissociative episodes. Depression. Anxiety. Flashbacks. Intrusive thoughts. And then you’re left lying on the floor with all the items that were stuffed into the closet splattered around you. Forced to finally accept what happened. And forced to finally deal with it. Forced to clean up the items around you and find appropriate places for each thing. And then over time, slowly, you learn what to do with each item and how to deal with each thing, uniquely.”

Nargis D.

Trauma can change your brain.

One reality is that trauma experiencing– whether as a child, adult, or both – can change your brain. Yes, you may have survived the trauma; nonetheless, the way that this trauma is stored in your brain and body may carry into your everyday life – including adulthood (if your trauma happened before then).

It’s not something you can “just forget,” and your triggers might not make sense to people who have never experienced it. PTSD and Complex PTSD very real and brings daily challenges and struggles; it can transform a world that once seemed safe into a very scary one. Having PTSD is not limited to combat veterans.

Breaking Free From Trauma and PTSD

In pondering how to describe trauma and PTSD treatment, I thought of sharing with you the PTSD linen cupboard metaphor:

“Memories in PTSD are a bit like items stuffed in a messy linen cupboard. Whenever you brush pass the cupboard the door flies open and items fall out: in other words, whenever you come across a reminder of the trauma you have flashbacks or intrusive memories, and feel intense fear. A typical response is to try to stuff things back in the cupboard, and to close the door as quickly as possible. But this just keeps the problem going: memories are jammed in the cupboard, and the door will still swing open at the lightest touch. In this way, memories of the traumatic event find their proper place: you can find them if you choose to, but they won’t come back so often when you don’t want them to. Treatment for PTSD involves slowly taking things out of the cupboard, examining them carefully, folding them neatly, and putting them back in the right place.”

Psychology Tools

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been scientifically proven – over decades – to be one of the most effective therapies for PTSD symptoms, and EMDR results are long lasting.Medication – although helpful – is limited in that it typically “patches” PTSD. It is through EMDR (or other therapies) that the psychological wounds of trauma can truly heal. EMDR goes beyond what medication can do: It can help you OVERCOME PTSD symptoms – not just cope with or “patch” them. It breaks the PTSD shackles, liberates, and empowers you: Trauma does not have to be a life sentence!

For more details about EMDR, please visit the EMDR Page

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