What is PTSD?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Paul Mallott MBPS BSc - Children/Adolescents/Adults and Clinical Supervision
1st May, 2010
Can you tell if the individual next to you in a supermarket checkout queue has a Cold/Flu, or whether your neighbour who has a plaster cast on their leg, has broken something? A person with a spinal/back problem does he/she get noticed for their problem, you see them washing their car, cutting the grass, does it look like anything is wrong with them? PTSD like backs and other conditions that cannot be readily seen, is a silent problem whose suffers usually hide in plain sight, yet millions suffer from its affects. Millions of individuals with PTSD don't even know that they have the disorder, and millions more keep their pain to themselves because they are afraid to seek help.
PTSD is an experience that horrifies and overwhelms you. That experience can be anything from you a natural disaster to a terrorist attack or having served in a conflict, or even a Doctor saying, you have a life threatening disease, or it may that you have suffered a car accident or sexual assault. Furthermore PTSD and the event which causes its affects in one person may leave another unsaved. To understand why a single moment in time can change your life so dramatically, it helps to know just what exactly a trauma is and how it can impact you both instantly and over time.
PTSD a bad memory that just won’t let go! Every case of PTSD, starts the same way; with a trauma. The word "trauma" comes from the Greek word for wound, that a good definition, as trauma can wound the mind as well as the body. Elements which define trauma:
- It's an overwhelming event
- It threatens life and limb
- It's unexpected
- It's an event that causes fear, helplessness, or horror in the person involved
In short trauma is a dangerous, shocking event that shakes both your body and soul. It makes you fear for your life and your safety, or the lives and safety of the people you care about most, and it breaks down your psychological defences and shatters your sense of security.
Is trauma different from a stressful event? Every person has stressful moments, and those can be mighty intense, for example, you lost your job yesterday or the dentist says you need root canal treatment, it's a good bet you feel stressed, however it does not mean you've endured a traumatic event. Stress is like the wrinkle in a carpet, you can step over it, straighten it out without changing your course, but trauma pulls the carpet from under your feet. Trauma can change your view of life and yourself, it shatters your most basic assumptions about yourself and the world. "Life is good," "I'm safe," "I can trust others," "The future is likely to be good," and replaces them with feelings like "the world is dangerous," "I can't win," "I can’t trust other people," or "There’s no hope.".
Although stress and its effects, pass with time, the aftershocks of trauma continue to mount. The issues which caused your trauma continue to mount and push you further into negative thoughts, negative actions, and a victim mentally and physically.
About the author
Paul Mallott, earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Open University, Diplomas in Health and Social Care level 5, Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Grief and Bereavement from a diversity of Educational Organisations.Member of The British Psychological Society (BPsS)
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