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  • Sara

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a lasting condition that occurs after a traumatic event and can lead to intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, distress, and anxiety. PTSD can be caused by a variety of traumas, such as childhood trauma, trauma from serving in the military, abuse, physical and sexual assault, and more. It occurs when the brain is negatively impacted by an event and has a hard time healing and moving forward.

Many people with PTSD will experience triggers, where a certain moment brings them back to the time of their trauma. This could be a smell, sound, location, image, or feeling, too, that causes the person to feel as if they are reliving their trauma all over again. Understandably so, this can be particularly detrimental, especially when left untreated. Depending on the root cause of someone’s post-traumatic stress disorder, it may be difficult to be in social situations and to have lasting and strong partnerships.

There are a number of clinical criteria that must be met in order to be diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the individual must have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of themselves or others. The individual must then have responded to the event with fear, helplessness, or horror. In addition, the individual must experience a number of symptoms from each of the following categories in the weeks or months following the traumatic event:

- Intrusive symptoms, such as memories or thoughts of the event that are unwanted and cause distress.

- Avoidance symptoms, such as avoiding people, places, or activities that remind them of the event.

- Negative changes in mood and thinking, such as feeling isolated, having negative thoughts about themselves or the world, and feeling hopeless.

- Changes in physical and emotional reactions, such as being easily startled, feeling tense or on edge, and having difficulty sleeping.

When an individual has unresolved trauma, PTSD can permeate almost all facets of that person’s life. Here are a few ways that we can address PTSD in a healthy way:

1. Find the right help and support - PTSD is a very complex illness that is best treated by a professional. When a trauma rewires neural pathways and throws off the brain’s chemical balance, professionals have ways to help heal the brain. There are therapists and neurologists that specialize in PTSD.

2. Talk with your support system – If you have a partner or a best friend that you feel comfortable talking with about your trauma, that can be a great place to start healing. Let them know that you would like to talk through it and ask for their support. Recognize that you may very likely experience strong emotions when discussing your trauma and that you can always take breaks or decide to leave it for another day! Healing takes time.

3. Be patient with yourself – Trauma work is not a linear path; there will be moments of breakthroughs and relief, but you might also experience challenges along the way. Allow yourself to take it one step at a time and give yourself grace.

4. Support groups – There are many support groups out there for specific types of traumas, such as veteran and war trauma, trauma from sexual assault, trauma from surviving cancer, and more. It may be helpful to join a group and talk through your trauma with other survivors that can relate to your experience.

When we think of strength, we often think of physical strength. But there is another kind of strength that is just as important – mental strength. Mental strength is what helps us get through tough times, including times when we experience trauma. Trauma can leave us feeling scared, alone, and helpless. But it is possible to find strength even in the darkest of times. This strength is what helps us get through the trauma and move on with our lives.

There are many ways to develop mental strength. One way is to practice self-compassion. This means being kind and understanding to yourself, even when you make mistakes. It also means recognizing your own worth, even when others may not see it.

Another way to develop mental strength is to cultivate a positive outlook. This means looking for the good in every situation, no matter how difficult it may be. It also means choosing to see the best in people, even when they may not deserve it.

Developing mental strength is not easy. It takes time, effort, and practice. But it is worth it. Mental strength gives us the power to overcome difficult times and become our best selves. When we’ve achieved mental health post-trauma, it is often referred to as “post-traumatic strength.”

As with all mental illness, look to find ways to heal and cope in a healthy and productive way. When left unresolved, trauma can continue to impact people for a long time. Take things at your own pace and remember that you are not alone!


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