The next topic I am going to tackle on this blog is trauma. Now, trauma is a very broad concept with a lot to consider, and cover, so I am going to try and keep this relatively practical to give you a good understanding of what PTSD is, and some of the factors that predict its development. I will then go on to share some of the neurology around trauma and how it can affect the body and one’s life.
Bear with me, as I mentioned this is a hefty topic. One that I hesitated tackling so soon on my blog but the truth is I use this blog as a means to consolidate information for myself and my clients. Trauma, or PTSD, is one of my specialty areas, and a good portion of my clinical caseload.
So, what exactly is PTSD? PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder that can develop after a person has experienced a traumatic event. The intensity and frequency of the traumatic event(s) contributes to the likelihood of a person developing the disorder.
What does PTSD look like?
Symptoms of PTSD include:
Not all individuals who experience a traumatic event, or even repeated traumatic events, go on to develop PTSD. Things like a person’s risk factors and resilience determine whether or not he or she will develop PTSD.
Another thing to consider is that it is common for a person to experience an Acute Stress Reaction to a traumatic event. An Acute Stress Reaction involves symptoms of anxiety, irritability, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, poor sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of things that remind the person of the traumatic experience, and somatic symptoms such as abdominal pain and headaches.
Notice anything familiar about these symptoms? They are almost the exact symptoms experienced in PTSD. The main difference is the duration of the symptoms. A person experiencing an Acute Stress Reaction may have these symptoms anywhere from one day to one month. If the symptoms persist longer than a month then the person is considered to have developed PTSD.
The point here, is that it is normal for your body to develop these symptoms after a traumatic event. You’ve been through a traumatic event for goodness sakes! You cannot expect yourself to get up and have absolutely no reaction to it. Trauma, unfortunately, can sometimes be unavoidable. If you have been through a traumatic event, be gentle with yourself and remember that whatever symptoms you may be experiencing is your body’s reaction to the trauma. As I mentioned, the risk factors and resilience of a person are what will ultimately determine the development of PTSD, which, like I said, is essentially a prolonged experience of these symptoms mentioned above.
I will elaborate more on the risk factors in my next post as I want to make these posts relatively short and easily digestible. For now, if you or someone you love has experienced a traumatic event be gentle with yourself or your loved one and try to avoid self-blame or self-punishment as these types of thoughts and behaviors only serve to worsen the symptoms. This would be a good time to make yourself a cup of tea, cozy up under a warm blanket and nurture yourself. With compassion and care, until next time- Dr. B
Heck, S. (2013). Healthing and Resilience After Trauma. Home Study. heiselandassoc.com.
Levine, P. (2015). Peter Levine Ph.D. on Trauma: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Online Training. catalog.pesi.com
Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York, NY: Penguin Books.