Post Traumatic Stress Disorder /

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Understanding post traumatic stress disorder

Trauma And Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

‘Trauma’ is a word that originated from ancient Greek meaning “wound, or damage” in the physical sense. In modern times we use the term “psychological trauma” to describe a condition in which a person has experienced a very difficult or unpleasant experience which causes abnormal stress and can causes them to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time. There has been growing awareness of the fact that people who are exposed to unexpected events such as terrorist attacks or car accidents are often not only physically injured, but mentally hurt as well. Other examples of traumatic events that may cause psychological trauma are injuries caused by natural disasters, sexual assault, or serious illness.

In general, trauma is a sudden deeply distressing or disturbing externally triggered experience. People experience traumatic events in many forms, a traumatic event can be a single experience, an enduring or repeating event or events and in some instances witnessing or hearing experiences that are traumatic to other people can also disturb people.  Traumatic experiences includes but not limited to experiences that involve a threat to life or safety of self and/or of others and/or any experience that extremely stresses and overwhelms an individual's ability to cope even if it doesn’t comprise physical harm. There are no degrees of severity making one traumatic experience worse than the other. All types of trauma are equally severe. It is the subjective interpretation that determines whether an experience is traumatic or just stressful. Accordingly, trauma is an experience that provokes feelings of fear, helplessness and horror; it also triggers an abnormal intenseness and prolonged stress response. Trauma is not the same as stress; stress is an unavoidable part of daily life while traumatic stress is an anxiety disorder that is characterised by extreme emotional or mental anxiety. The more frightened and helpless an individual feel, the more likely they are traumatized. This is means any experience that is seen by the individual as causing harm, physical, emotional, psychological distress is described as a traumatic event.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD
describes a condition that may develop after an individual has been exposed to traumatic event or events. Following a traumatic event it is normal for an individual to experience the following range of symptoms:

  • Disturbing recurring flashbacks/ Re-living: For the sufferer this means disturbing memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time and it will feel like they are undergoing the same fear and horror they did when the actual event took place. Re-living can be triggered by the person’s own thoughts and feelings, hearing and seeing situations identical to the event, certain words, sounds, smells or objects can also trigger flashbacks/reliving.
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Constant nightmares and night terrors.
  • Avoidance or numbing of memories of the event.
  • Hyper-arousal (feeling 'on edge')
  • Victims will experience depression, anxiety, and physical health problems such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomachaches among other problems.

In childhood sexual abuse long-term symptoms can go on through adulthood. These may include:

  • PTSD and anxiety.
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression and thoughts of suicide.
  • Sexual anxiety and disorders, including having too many or unsafe sexual partners.
  • Difficulty setting safe limits with others (e.g., saying no to people)
  • Relationship problems.
  • Poor body image and low self-esteem.
  • Unhealthy behaviours, such as alcohol, drugs abuse, self-harm and suicidal behaviours, and/or eating problems. These behaviours are often used as a way of coping with painful emotions related to the abuse.
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The above symptoms can be frightening for the sufferers, disrupt life and impact on daily functioning; everyday life will become a struggle. If left untreated or the appropriate treatment is not provided victims may suffer from alcoholism and illicit substances as a consequence of trying to cope with PTSD

 

Our therapists are specialists in working with people who have been traumatised in both childhood and adult life.   PTSD describes a condition that may develop after an individual has been exposed to traumatic event or events. When confronted with a threatening situation our brains react quickly to keep us safe by preparing the body for action, the fight or flight response, also called the acute stress response. Just like animals, we humans react to the acute stress by either fighting the threat or fleeing from it. When confronted by a threat, the brain begins to prepare the body for action without conscious thought. The brain activates the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that stimulates the body and mobilizes energy resources for either a fight or flight action. The fight or flight response was very useful during cave man days it is less relevant in the modern society. Except that despite all the evolution and technology changes we remain stuck with the same bodily mechanism of the caveman-the fight or flight response to threat. It is true in the modern society we are not confronted daily with lions and tigers hunting. Yet in some people, the fight or flight reaction can occur when confronted with a frightening or stressful situation, such as childhood sexual abuse includes childhood incest, childhood physical, psychological and emotional abuse. In adulthood fight or flight reaction can occur when involved in a motor vehicle accidents, bullying at wok, rape and domestic abuse.   People experience traumatic events in many forms, a traumatic event can be a single experience, an enduring or repeating event or events and in some instances witnessing or hearing experiences that are traumatic to other people can also disturb people.  Traumatic experiences includes but not limited to experiences that involve a threat to life or safety of self and/or of others and/or any experience that extremely stresses and overwhelms an individual's ability to cope even if it doesn’t comprise physical harm. There are no degrees of severity making one traumatic experience worse than the other. All types of trauma are equally severe. It is the subjective interpretation that determines whether an experience is traumatic or just stressful. Trauma by definition means that our boundaries have been broken; it creates a loss of faith that there is any safety, predictability, or meaning in the world, or any safe place in which to retreat. It involves utter disillusionment. Because traumatic events are often unable to be processed by the mind and body as other experiences are, due to their overwhelming and shocking nature, they are not integrated or digested

 

 
Our work with PTSD sufferers:
PTSD occurs when a person has been traumatised and not been able to fight or flight (run away) instead they go into a freeze mode. So we work with people who have been traumatised and who have not been able to contact that fight or flight response. So let’s say for example someone is being sexually abused and they can’t fight or flight, they can’t engage, they get immobilise and go into a freeze mode, which means they can’t shake off the flight energy. So part of their healing is we help them to come out of the freeze by reprocessing the fight or flight. Everything we experience is registered in the body and it has to be felt there so that the nervous system can release the blocked fight energy of the trauma, shock and stress, and heal. Our whole human system from the brain to the body wants to heal and move towards greater wholeness and all we do is quick starting the natural process of self-healing.

 

*If you were sexually abused as a child or you have experienced a significant life-changing event and have some of the symptoms, it is important for you to get help. Talk to your GP or you can use the contact form provided on this website to contact our services.

 

Visit http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Post-traumatic-stress-disorder/Pages/Treatment.aspx for detailed treatment choices for PTSD.

 

Trauma/PTSD recovery Tips:

In life we don’t have total control over what we experience or what impact on us. This means we don’t have a choice whether or not to experience disturbing, distressing and/or shocking experiences. Whether it’s a natural traumatic event such as fires, earthquakes and floods or it’s losing a home, losing a loved one, physical attack or rape or its childhood sexual/physical abusive; any unexpected traumatic event that overwhelms the mind can shatter a person's world, destroy what was once a sense of self-protection and fundamental beliefs and assumptions about how the world should operate. However, thank goodness we do have a choice on what you think, believe and how we react afterward.

When we to experience a traumatic event, its natural that we have to make sense of it, we have to attach a meaning to our experience. This means we have to comprehend, frame and put our experience into perspective. This is how we restructure our opinions of the world and move onward. Unfortunately there is drawback: the meaning we attach to our experience, and the insight we develop from the unfortunate experiences/events can damage or aid recovery depending on the story we tell ourselves. What we think or believe about the traumatic events determines how we feel and how we behave. This is our response to the practical event and how we continue to feel and act even if the event is long gone. The bottom line is we cannot control everything about the world, and/or certain situations. External events whether pleasant or negative triggers a vicious cycle involving thoughts, emotions, bodily responses and behaviours. We can, however, control our reactions to situations. This is the control we most need to develop.

The Chinese character for crisis is a combination of two words -- danger and opportunity. People who fully engage in recovery from trauma discover unexpected benefits. As they gradually heal their wounds, survivors find that they are also developing inner strength, compassion for others, increasing self-awareness, and often the most surprising -- a greater ability to experience joy and serenity than ever before. (Patti Levin, LICSW, PsyD 2001) Recovery means learning to live in flow... 

Recovery Tips:
The base of recovery from any emotional and/or psychological problems including PTSD is a dedicated, self-empowered mentality. It is hard to imagine anyone recovering from any form of trauma without this viewpoint. If you’re feeling powerless in your mind that has to change – by you “acting as if you are self-empowered”.  This will help you make a shift from powerless to powerful.  Your ability to achieve freedom begins with your belief in your ability to achieve freedom. Not to worry. Making choices and taking actions are the foundations of adjusting yourself from powerless to powerful. Remember you can only change yourself not others or situations.

1. Focusing on the Basics of Coping
Take it one day at a time. There is no fixed time frame for recovery following a traumatic experience. It is an individual experience; some may take weeks, months, and in some cases, many years to fully regain equilibrium. Don’t try to push yourself or let others push you to "get over it”.  What is crucial is connections to others ask for help, support, understanding, and opportunities to talk. Isolation is brutally challenging on it’s own and affects a person adding more emotional problems. 

  • Acceptance:  First lets clarify this; acceptance is not the same as condoning or liking. It is very important to understand the difference between acceptance and condoning. Acceptance is acknowledging reality; you are saying, “I realise this have happened, I don’t like it, I would rather it didn’t happen, but unfortunately it did, and this is how the situation is right now.” By acknowledging the reality of what has happened it places you in a better position to do something about it, to change it if it can be change. But most importantly it helps you to figure out the factual factors/ingredients that might have contributed to the occurrence of the situation and what you actual need to do to change it or to improve the situation. Acceptance is thinking, and consequently thoughts such as, “This should have never happened” blinds people from reality. The question you need to ask are such as, “How did this happen?”  “What needs to happen to improve/change things?” Recovery starts with acceptance of the experience and accepting the impact of trauma on your life and taking direct action to improve things.

 

  • Maintain balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible.
  • Commit to something personally meaningful and important every day no matter what you feel in the moment—do something to maintain momentum, even if it’s one small thing. There’s an old saying that says that true courage isn’t about not feeling fear; it’s about feeling fear and acting anyway.

 

  • Maintain balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible.
  • Recall and draw inner strengths and skills from healthy coping strategies you have used to survive past challenges.

 

2. CREATE A “HEALING STORY
Writing a “healing story” helps trauma sufferers to integrate the trauma, establish a sense of safety, reassess and reframe their past, re-envision the present and it’s a good starting point to begin constructing a healthful  future
Slow down – break your experiences into pieces.

To recover from trauma, you need to take a step back and begin to analyse the experience in another way. When you become aware of the interpretations you’ve given the experience, ask yourself: Is my interpretations and beliefs about the experience 100% accurate? Is there another way of seeing this? Is the story I am telling myself a good story or a bad one? Does this make me feel good about who I am?” If the answer is, yes, then advance and follow that thought process! If the answer is, no, it’s time to re-examine your perspective; it’s time to ask yourself: “Is there another way to look at this?”

Write down your fragmented story in a chronological narrative with a before, middle and post-trauma exposure. Try to integrate what happened during trauma incident/experience into your autobiographical memory and let the “past be the past.” Best-case scenario, a healing story will give you a way to view your experience that leads you forward to empowered, proactive living.

Create a vision for your future; write the people, places, or situations that you need to leave behind.  Now imagine and write the future that you want, whether it’s simply a feeling, a group of people, or a situation such as a wonderful new job. Imagine and write how it will feel to be in that new place. Imagine and write about the sun coming up behind your future, the warm glow of the light on your face. Imagine and write stand for a moment and silently voice your appreciation of everything that came before. Once you’ve thanked the past, turn toward the sun, and with compassion and gratitude, imagine and write yourself walking away from the past and into the future.

 

Resilient individuals write their stories first and then they live their way into them. There may be an element of “act as if you sincerely believe the story”. Remember you are not acting for the purpose of putting people on but you are acting for the purpose of practicing the new way of thinking. This may include elements of “fake it, until you make it.”
Remember you don’t have control whether or not to experience trauma however, you do have control on what you think, believe and experience afterward the trauma experience.

 

Your stories include:

  • Problem-solving strategies.
  • Positive ending sequences.
  • RE-words and change talk action verbs;
  • Goal statements and “how to” pathways thinking
  • Expressions of optimism.
  •  Meaning-making statements (Sharing lessons learned statements)

 

Now that you have written a vision of your future, break it up into workable tasks and make it specific

  • What do you need to do—every day—to create that vision?
  • Look for work? Meet new people? Search for a place to live in your chosen town?
  • Make a list of everything you need to do and a schedule for when you’ll do it. Then do it and commit to keep doing it, one day at a time.
  • Surround yourself with visual reminders of the life you’d like to create.

 

Every morning and evening, imagine and picture yourself walking into the rising sun, toward your future, and reminding yourself why you are moving toward this new bright future. Change is neither stress-free nor always even. Often we encounter challenges. At time we struggle to let go, even of things that cause us discomfort or pain. We habitually struggle with restricting beliefs or a story about ourselves/our past that inhibits us back from trying new things.
However there is a way to keep you motivated even in the midst of any difficulties you may encounter on your path. Each time you find yourself slipping into old habits—isolating yourself, making excuses not to look for work, procrastinating on a task that might help you advance in your career—don’t bother wondering why you’re doing it or beating yourself up. Just ask yourself this: “What can I do in this moment to keep moving forward?” (Melissa Kirk)

 

Every morning and evening, imagine and picture yourself walking into the rising sun, toward your future, and reminding yourself why you are moving toward this new bright future. Change is neither stress-free nor always even. Often we encounter challenges. At time we struggle to let go, even of things that cause us discomfort or pain. We habitually struggle with restricting beliefs or a story about ourselves/our past that inhibits us back from trying new things.
However there is a way to keep you motivated even in the midst of any difficulties you may encounter on your path.

Recovery is a process:
Recognise that healing is a process, daily process and takes time. Accepting this will help you feel more in control. Healing from traumatic experiences doesn’t mean forgetting the experiences or that you will have no pain when thinking about it.  Healing may mean fewer symptoms that distress you. Recovery means gaining more self-reliance that you will be able to manage your emotions and to cope with your memories and trauma symptoms.

Any trauma survivor feeling or showing any of the following symptoms should seek professional help.

  • Shock and disbelief.
  • Fear and/or anxiety.
  • Grief, disorientation, denial.
  • Depression or extreme hopelessness.
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation.
  • Hyper-alertness or hypervigilance.
  • Extreme physiologic or psychological reaction.
  • Psychotic states
  • Irritability, restlessness, outbursts of anger or rage.
  • Emotional swings -- like crying and then laughing.
  • Worrying or ruminating -- intrusive thoughts of the trauma and nightmares.
  • Flashbacks -- feeling like the trauma is happening now.
  • Feelings of helplessness, panic, feeling out of control.
  • Increased need to control everyday experiences.
  • Substance abuse – alcohol or drug use

 

Various supportive resources that survivors may find helpful include: 

Mental Health Service - Veterans Agency

www.veterans-uk.info/mental_health/faq.html‎

UK Trauma Services - ukpts

www.ukpts.co.uk/site/trauma-services/‎

Arrange an Appointment at our Bolton Office Today
Email: help@steps-to-rational-living.co.uk. Mobile: 07853192177 to schedule an appointment with a trained psychotherapist. Steps To Rational Living is conveniently located in Bolton City Centre Our office is easily accessible and parking is available 5 minutes from our location.

 

 

1. file PTSD Triggers-Ways to Cope With Triggers During PTSD Recovery (1) (pdf)

 

2. file The Importance Of Going Through Trauma Recovery and The Distraction Strategies (pdf)

 

3. file What Is Emotional, Psychological Trauma And Post Traumatic Disorder (pdf)

 

 

 

Please note: If you are thinking about harming yourself or someone else, please call 999 for immediate assistance.