Vail Valley: Suffering post-traumatic stress disorder?
VAIL, Colorado –Following exposure to a traumatic event, millions of people develop some level of post-traumatic stress disorder, with symptoms ranging from nightmares or headaches, flashbacks, anxiety, anger, emotional numbing, depression, guilt and others.
Without proper treatment, many people struggle with these symptoms for life. Is this you or someone you know?
What makes some events in our lives so traumatic that we can end up with post-traumatic stress disorder? These events are usually so severe that they would distress anyone. They are events that you would perceive as being dangerous to yourself or to others.
Often, you live afterwards with a sense of how you were before the event and how you are now, so that the event has fundamentally changed your perception of yourself, and indeed, how you experience your world and the people around you.
Mental health professionals are over time gaining a greater understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. Research has shown that traumatic events can be grouped into three basic categories – intentional human-caused events, unintentional human events and acts of nature.
The intentional human-caused events are the most difficult ones to recover from. These include war, abuse, criminal assault and other events caused by people. Unintentional human events may include industrial accidents, motor vehicle accidents, even nuclear accidents. Acts of nature and natural disasters represent the third category – hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and sudden, life-threatening illness.
Why are intentional human-caused events so much more traumatic, even though all three of the categories of events leave you with a complete lack of control? Clearly, human-caused events are the most degrading and bring with them a tremendous sense of shame. People end up feeling stigmatized and different – they feel like an outcast (as in rape).
Man-made traumas also are likely to leave one with a loss of faith in humanity, in love, family and ultimately in oneself. By contrast, in the case of natural disasters, there are usually many people who experience the trauma with you and you bond as survivors and retain your faith in humanity. This allows you to process the event soon after the fact.
Do you wonder if you or someone you love suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder? Do you fear the unpleasant memories of a traumatic event, memories that frequently intrude into your consciousness despite all efforts to “put them into a closet and lock the door?” Do you find yourself anxious either all the time or in response to a sometimes unidentified trigger? Or have you stuffed your memories and feelings about the event so deeply that you feel estranged and detached from yourself and others and the world around you?
If you are motivated to explore some coping mechanisms and their effect, consider reading a wonderful self-help book: “The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth,” by Glenn Schiraldi. Learn more about what you or your loved one is experiencing and see if you can find your way out of post-traumatic stress disorder to live a happy and fulfilling life.
If your symptoms don’t resolve themselves over time, which they may with reading and dialogue, and with support from friends and community, this indicates that the trauma that you experienced overwhelmed your coping mechanisms and that you have not yet learned effective ways of coping with these symptoms. It may be time to reach out for professional help. Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms don’t just go away by themselves.
Your system is being overwhelmed and the symptoms are telling you something important about your emotional well-being. Getting professional help to deal with the trauma in your life is then the first step to recovery and wholeness.
Elizabeth Myers is the executive director of the Samaritan Counseling Center. To reach the Samaritan Center, call 970-926-8558 or visit http://www.samaritan-vail.org.
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