Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Do you experience flashbacks or nightmares about something that has happened to you?
Do you numb yourself with alcohol, drugs, TV or phone scrolling?
Do you ever feel as if you are stuck in the past?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a predictable and treatable set of reactions to a traumatic event. A traumatic event is defined as anything that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope with it. Many people minimize their traumatic experiences or believe that trauma must be “headline-worthy” in order to count, but the fact is that in addition to car accidents, sudden losses, and combat, people can experience traumatic reactions to divorce, job loss, or moving. It is not the event that matters as much as the body and brain’s response to it.
What does PTSD feel like?
People who have PTSD often struggle to stay in the “now”. They may respond to current events as if they were in the past, traumatic circumstance. For example, they may explode with anger over small issues. Or they may feel unsafe in conditions that are actually typically not a real threat such as crowds or open spaces.
Trauma results in activation of the body’s defense systems: fight, flight, or freeze. Fight and flight live in the parasympathetic nervous system and have to do with activation and mobilization. The freeze response has more to do with the vagus nerve and makes people feel immobilized, depressed, or very low energy.
For people who have PTSD, these systems are not working properly. The “alarm bells” go off without any seeming reason, making a situation seem threatening when it isn’t (remember, this can result in being scared or being irritable and angry, the “fight” side of the system that often gets overlooked). A person with PTSD may behave impulsively, have seemingly irrational anger, self-harm or push other people away.
Simultaneously, a person with PTSD often attempts to numb and avoid the feelings that the trauma generates. This can result in behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, overuse of shopping, TV or phone scrolling, workaholism or other process addictions. Anything that distracts the body and mind from the trauma and numbs the feelings associated with it.
Healing from PTSD
The good news is that PTSD is treatable. Monarch clinicians are skilled at using a blend of exposure, relational therapy, and supportive understanding to help you to achieve calm, peace and empowerment. Although there is often still specific work that needs to be done in these areas, addictions such as eating disorders and drug and alcohol abuse lose some of their entrenchment with successful trauma treatment.
Relationships begin to feel less like a burden and more like a vitalizing connection and begin to be characterized more by steadiness and reliability. Sleep and self-care often improve, and people begin feeling less overwhelmed by everyday life. As symptoms remit, they are replaced by an ability to live in the present moment, feeling connected and fully alive.