PTSD

A door slams and you jump. You realize you’ve been staring into space for several minutes instead of working on the project in front of you.  

Why can’t I concentrate? 

At times you feel disconnected from the world; at other times you feel as if a layer of skin is missing—you’re jumpy and aware of every little sound, movement, and smell around you. And the worst times are when the sights, sounds, and smells are not the ones around you but the ones from that terrible time you try not to think about but just can’t forget.   

When will this get better? 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder happens when a person has been exposed to an event that produces a reaction of extreme fear. The chemicals that flood the brain in those moments cause it to categorize that experience – and file away those memories – differently than ordinary, day-to-day events. The DSM-V breaks down the symptoms of PTSD into four basic categories:  

Intrusive Symptoms:  

  • Unwanted, recurrent memories of the event 
  • Flashbacks 
  • Dreams or nightmares related to the event 
  • Physical or emotional reaction (racing heart, crying, etc.) to reminders of the event  

Avoidant Symptoms: 

  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations that bring up memories of the event 
  • Avoiding people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situations that bring up memories of the event 

Thought and Mood Disrupting Symptoms: 

  • Inability to remember a significant detail of the event 
  • Persistent and increased negative thoughts about yourself, others, or the world 
  • Increased blame of self or others regarding the event 
  • Pervasive negative emotions i.e. shame, anger, fear 
  • Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy 
  • Feeling detached from others 
  • Inability to experience positive emotions i.e. love, joy, happiness 

ArousalSymptoms: 

  • Impulsive or self-destructive behavior 
  • Feeling constantly on guard; hypervigilant 
  • Heightened startle response 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Problems sleeping

The artwork on this page may resonate with you: Everyone and everything around me is a firecracker about to go off. Or am I the firecracker? 

Treatment for PTSD is multi-faceted.  While Cognitive Behavior Therapy for PTSD remains a classic method (and we often use various components from it), other studies have shown better response to methods like EMDR, somatic and body-work (like yoga), Emotion Focused Therapy, and impressive results with neurofeedback.  An excellent book describing the most current research is Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score.  When the traumatic events were relatively brief and specific, then successful treatment is also often brief.  Unfortunately, if the events were more severe and/or lasted a long time, then it may be what van der Kolk described as Developmental Trauma Disorder.  If that is the case for you, then successful treatment is likely to take longer and involve more modalities.  At Brain Health Northwest, our clinicians have many years of experience working with trauma from a variety of perspectives.  Our commitment to you is to use everything at our disposal to help you recover!