How many moments have been lost because
you’ve been at war with yourself or someone else?
Don’t let the pain of one season destroy the joy of the rest of your life.
Don’t judge your entire life by one difficult experience—
or even years of pain and sorrow.
Misdirected energy becomes chaotic in the brain and the body
and can produce anxiety, depression and confusion.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious and common condition affecting millions of lives. For people who develop PTSD, distressing memories do not fade away. Instead, residual memories may leave a person feeling fearful, helpless, and out-of-control, which may affect long-term emotional and well-being — taking a toll on relationships and health.
Causes of PTSD
Any experience that threatens your life or someone else’s can cause PTSD. These events are sometimes called “trauma.”
You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you go through, see or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation.
Kinds of Traumatic Events
The most common events leading to PTSD include:
- Combat exposure
- Childhood physical abuse
- Sexual violence
- Physical assault
- Being threatened with a weapon
- An accident
- Emotional or verbal abuse
- Violent or accidental death or injury of a loved one
- Child sexual or physical abuse
- Life-threatening medical diagnosis
- Terrorist attacks
During this kind of event, you may not have any control over what’s happening, and you may feel very afraid. Anyone who has gone through something like this can develop PTSD.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into FOUR TYPES:
1. Intrusive memories
- Recurrent and distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event. A “trigger”.
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
3. Negative changes in thinking and mood
- Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Mistrust of others — Not trusting your judgement
4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Always being on guard for danger
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
Intensity of Symptoms
PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you went through. For example, you may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences. Or you may see a news report about a sexual assault and feel overcome by memories of your own.
People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder. However, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:
- Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma
- Having experienced other trauma earlier in life, such as childhood abuse
- Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel, first responders and emergency room clinicians.
- Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Having problems with substance misuse, such as excess drinking or drug use
- Lacking a good support system of family and friends
- Having blood relatives with mental health problems, including anxiety or depression
Having PTSD may also increase your risk of other mental health problems, such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Issues with drugs or alcohol use
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
What is a “Trigger”?
- Any emotional recall from a past disturbing event.
- A trigger is different than a memory. A trigger happens ‘now’.
- A trigger may bring intense disturbing emotions, which excite the central nervous system.
- A trigger may cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, confusion or unexplained feelings
- Triggers are often accompanied by body sensations
One trauma, or a series of traumas, if not processed in the brain accurately, can become a painful memory “frozen in time”. When these memories are ‘triggered”, it feels like the event is happening in the “NOW” — with intense emotions and bodily sensations.
Every time you are triggered, your brain is trying to accurately process the traumatic event, but is unsuccessful.
Your central nervous system eventually calms down (think smoking, alcohol, drugs, or anything to keep your mind occupied) – Until the next trigger – Think panic attacks, anxiety, depression, etc.
When To See a Mental Health Provider?
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.
Last Thoughts on PTSD
Your brain may be holding a list of emotional disturbances from the past. In fact, the brain has a special place called the “Amygdala” where it stores your unprocessed trauma and painful experiences. Since the brain is highly organized, it wants to process toxic emotional memories and store them accurately. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a highly effective protocol for PTSD Treatment and can help you direct the energy in a positive and accurate way.
EMDR Can Help You:
- Reduce Triggers
- Organize your emotions.
- Organize your thoughts.
- Help integrate what happened in an organized fashion.
- Help see past events accurately.
If past experiences are affecting your life today in a negative way, don’t wait — learn about EMDR Therapy on this website here.
Dr. Logan is a credentialed EMDR clinician and has 15 years experience in the use of EMDR.