What is PTSD and How Can We Recognize It?

2359749660_372b69b9ce_b“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.”  -Mark Victor Hansen

1.From Mark Goulston: PTSD Symptoms: 7 Signs That May Signal PTSD:

1. Feeling Bulletproof: Prior to the trauma, they often felt invulnerable as if nothing could harm them (the way a very wealthy person who can buy anything — and sometimes anyone — can feel all the way to a freshly trained soldier before they enter battle).

2. Horrendous Trauma: There is usually something horrific about the trauma. Horror has a way of destabilizing the acting, feeling and thinking parts of their brains so they can no longer work together. This may explain the use of the expressions: “Wigged out,” “Coming unglued,” “At wit’s end.”

3. Raw Vulnerability: As bulletproof as they once thought they were is as vulnerable as they have turned out to be. There is a belief that they don’t know how they survived the first trauma and an unconscious belief that they wouldn’t survive being re-traumatized. One of the reasons for anniversary reactions.

4. Brittleness: Not being able to find peace outside or inside their life or inside their psyche, leads to a brittleness where anything can set them off. This leads to the heightened startle respond common to people with PTSD.

5. Terror: Inside there is a deeply held belief that any re-traumatization will cause them to shatter and fragment and there is an feeling of impending inevitability that it will happen which creates a state of terror, difficulty sleeping, heavy self-medication (which also dulls ones rational thinking).

6. PTSD Symptoms: Most of the symptoms of PTSD from withdrawing to alcohol and substance abuse to not sleeping (since the experience of and fear of nightmares adds to the terror) are attempts to avoid re-traumatization.

7. Fragility: Feeling on the brink of going from brittle to shattering, fragmenting, losing their mind and never getting it back can cause a person who needs to be in control to take desperate measures. That is because to such a person, losing complete control is a fate worse than death.

2. From Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health: More than 3,000 survivors of the WTC attacks experience long-term post-traumatic stress disorder:

“PTSD risk was greater among survivors who experienced serious life threat as defined by location in the towers, time of evacuation initiation, or dust cloud exposures,” said Dr. Laura DiGrande, DrPH, MPH, Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health doctoral degree recipient for this research and first author of the study. “As one would expect, individuals who were exposed to several of the most troubling and life threatening events during the disaster were at the greatest risk of PTSD.” Only 145 or four percent of survivors had no symptoms of PTSD.”

“As the long-term effects of the WTC disaster emerge the results from this study suggest that some survivors of the WTC disaster will continue to report psychological symptoms years after their exposure to the events of 9/11. The implication of this finding is that the impact of terrorism on survivors, particularly those in low socioeconomic positions, could be substantial, as PTSD is known to be co-morbid with other disorders and harmful behaviors that affect daily functioning, wellness, and relationships,” noted Dr. Sandro Galea, MD, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and study senior author.”

3.  From  helpguide.org: “The difference between PTSD and a normal response to trauma“:

When your sense of safety and trust are shattered by a traumatic event, it’s normal for the mind and body to be in shock. It’s common to have bad dreams, feel fearful, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. For most people, these symptoms gradually lift over time. But this normal response to trauma becomes PTSD when the symptoms don’t ease up and your nervous system gets “stuck” and fails to recover its equilibrium.

The latest research shows that the brain has three ways of regulating the nervous system and responding to stressful events:

Social engagement is the most evolved strategy for keeping yourself feeling calm and safe. Socially interacting with another person—making eye contact, listening in an attentive way, talking—can quickly calm you down and put the brakes on defensive responses like “fight-or-flight.”

Mobilization, or the fight-or-flight response, occurs when social engagement isn’t appropriate and you need to either defend yourself or escape the danger at hand—such as in a natural disaster. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina and speed your reaction time. Once the danger has passed, your nervous system then calms the body, slowing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and winding back down to its normal balance.

Immobilization occurs when you’ve experienced an overwhelming amount of stress in a situation and, while the immediate danger has passed, you find yourself “stuck.” Your nervous system is unable to return to its pre-stress state of balance and you’re unable to move on from the event. This is PTSD.

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