I’ve found that there is no condition more treatable, but so misunderstood, as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This unfortunately leads people to not getting the treatment that they need.
PTSD does not need to be a chronic condition that you’ll suffer from for the rest of your life, and in fact is very treatable if you get the right kind of treatment. It’s one of my favorite things to treat because with the right treatment you can experience a night-and-day difference in your quality of life, sometimes in as quickly as 3-6 months.
Exposure to a traumatic event doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop PTSD, and in fact in ~70% of cases it doesn’t. So why do some people develop PTSD, while others don’t?
This has been studied after several major catastrophic events, such as 9/11 or the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. When they interviewed people immediately in the aftermath of 9/11, ~70-80% reported symptoms of PTSD. But when they went back to interview that same group 6 months later only ~30% still had symptoms.
How is that possible? Because those who end up developing PTSD are the ones who try to avoid reminders and triggers instead of “going back to normal life.” Avoiding leads to the problem.
If something traumatic happens to you, your brain will naturally continue to learn, but now has learned the wrong things. It will say, “the world isn’t a safe place,” or “You aren’t safe, or “You are always in danger.”
So if you avoid everything that challenges those thoughts, then that belief gets reinforced. This is called fear conditioning, and is why an acute stress disorder (within the first month after a trauma) can turn into full-blown PTSD.
Think of PTSD as developing more so from a lack of recovery from the traumatic event, rather than just the exposure to one.
So how do you know if you, or a loved one, is experiencing PTSD? In my new IGTV Trauma Series I shared the 4 main cluster symptoms:
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event through nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive memories
- Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of the trauma, and/or avoiding thoughts and emotions relating to the trauma
- Negative perceptions and beliefs, including feeling emotionally “numb” and detached from others, having extreme negative beliefs about yourself and the world, and difficulty experiencing positive emotions, such as joy
- Symptoms of physiological arousal (such as hypervigilance, irritability/anger, anxiety, an increased startle response, and trouble concentrating)
If you missed the first two weeks of videos in the series, you can watch them here:
Week 1: What Is PTSD And How Is It Triggered?