Compassionate Counseling

Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy and Counseling, a service of CSER

Compassionate Counseling

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Could I Have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was relatively unknown until somewhat recently, however it is not a new disorder. In past times it has been called battle fatigue, battle shock, combat exhaustion, combat fatigue, DaCosta's syndrome, exhausted heart, Post-Vietnam syndrome, railroad heart, shell shock, or soldier's heart.  Even though PTSD has been primarily identified with returning combat veterans, it is now recognized as quite widespread among civilian victims.

  • Even children can experience PTSD.
  • Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD.
  • Spousal abuse
  • Combat or military exposure
  • Child sexual or physical abuse
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Rape or physical assault
  • Serious accidents, car wrecks, or aircraft accidents
  • Natural disasters, like fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake

During such an event, you may feel afraid that you have no control and that your life or other lives are in danger. Afterward you may feel scared, confused, or angry. If these feelings don’t go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may disrupt your life and make it hard to pursue your daily activities.

All people with PTSD have lived through a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things and feel helpless. The emotions from the event create changes in the brain that may result in PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD

While most people have some symptoms at the beginning, only some will develop PTSD. We don’t really know all the reasons that some do and others do not.
Some of the issues are.

  • How intense the trauma was or how long it lasted
  • If you lost someone you were close to or you were hurt
  • How physically close you were to the event
  • How strong your reaction was
  • How much you felt out of control of events
  • How much help and support you got after the event

Many people who develop PTSD get better, but about one out of three people with PTSD may continue to have some symptoms. Even though you continue to have symptoms, treatment can help you cope so that the symptoms don’t have to disrupt your work and relationships.

There are essentially four groups of symptoms: reliving the event, avoidance, numbing and feeling keyed up. These symptoms usually start soon after the event, but for some people it may happen months or even years later. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks or cause you great distress, interfering with your work or home life, you should pursue help and treatment.

  • Reliving the event or flashback:
  • Hearing a car backfire may bring back memories of gunfire.
  • Seeing a car accident can remind a crash survivor of her own accident.
  • Reading about an airplane disaster can bring back images of the victim’s crash.
  • Seeing news of a sexual assault may bring back memories of the assault for a woman who has been raped.
  • Avoidance of situations that remind you:
  • A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies with earthquakes.
  • Someone who has been robbed at gunpoint at a drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants.
  • Some people just keep very busy and avoid seeking help. This keeps them from thinking or talking about the event.
  • Numbing:
  • You may lose the ability to experience loving feelings and friendships toward others and may stay away from relationships.
  • You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy.
  • You may forget or not be able to talk about parts of the traumatic event.
  • Hyper-arousal or feeling keyed up:
  • Suddenly becoming angry
  • Having a hard time sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Easily getting agitated
  • Fearing for your safety and always on guard
  • Being very startled when someone surprises you

There are some other frequent problems: Drinking or drugs. Feelings of hopelessness, despair or shame. Difficulty keeping a job. Divorce, violence in relationships. Feeling or thinking of suicide. Sometimes there may also be physical symptoms.

There are good treatments available.
When you have PTSD, dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But treatments are available which can make life better.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is one type of counseling and it is acknowledged to be the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. Among the forms of CBT are Cognitive Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.  Despite the dangers of bad side effects, sometimes, at least temporarily, medications may help.