What is PTSD
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
Most people typically think of PTSD in the context of active duty service members or veterans because of the common occurrences they experience. This is understandable, but PTSD can occur in anyone from a distressing event.
According to Trisha Waun LMSW, one of our therapists here at Telebehavioral Health.US, “trauma can be anything someone internalizes as dangerous, scary, distressing, etc. It is very subjective. How someone perceives an event is individualized; therefore, lasting effects differ from person to person.”
Some examples of trauma include a natural disaster, accidents/injuries, the death of a loved one, rape, or other forms of violent assault. Eight million Americans between the ages of 18 and older have PTSD.
Types of trauma
Some terms specify the type of PTSD someone is experiencing. Developmental Trauma, Complex Trauma, Generational Trauma, and/or Systematic Trauma.
Developmental trauma is a term used to describe childhood trauma. As a child, the structure of your brain is developing, and developmentally if the child is living in neglect, chaos, or chronic abuse, they are exposed to overwhelming stress, which could cause developmental trauma. Especially if their caregiver does not help reduce the stressor or is the source of stress.
Complex Trauma is the exposure to multiple traumas. It most commonly occurs during childhood but can develop in adulthood. Complex Childhood Trauma is exceptionally damaging and produced from abuse and neglect.
Generational trauma is cyclical. “If unhealthy behavioral patterns are not dealt with in one generation the unhealthy tendencies and behaviors can get past from one generation to the next,” states Kelly Skrzypchak, LMSW, CAADC, Clinical Director of Telebehavioral Health.US.
Systematic Trauma (Historical Trauma) is the concept that threats of safety toward groups of people based on race, ethnicity, acts of hatred, mistreatment have lasting and embedded traumatic consequences. Kelly explains, “a perfect example is evident and being brought to the forefront of society is racism in the United States; racism has been around, and it is the result of Historical Trauma that was created by slavery within the United States.”
It is important to note that just because someone experiences something traumatic it does not mean they will have PTSD.
“For others, trauma might be more complex and have a lasting effect," says Trisha Waun, "some people may experience trauma very early on while they are still growing and developing, which can stop slow or alter various parts of development.”
The warning signs of PTSD or symptoms are:
Re-experiencing the trauma through distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks or nightmares
Emotional numbness/detachment and avoidance of reminders of the trauma (i.e., places, people, activities)
Increased arousals such as hypervigilance, irritability, and feeling on guard
Consulting a therapist is a significant step in figuring out what treatment is best for you or a loved one. Experience and research both indicate it is best to address trauma as soon as possible.
Dan Cook, LMSW, CAADS, ADS shares insight on treatment for children and adults:
For children, talking directly about the trauma is essential. Children need to be in a safe space and have learned healthy relaxation techniques before moving forward with talking about what happened. A resource Dan utilizes is Brave Bart, by Caroline Shepard. The book explains how Bart went through something scary and meets a character named Hannah who helps him work through his trauma. This is a form of Bibliotherapy, which is using storytelling during a session.
For adults, treatment for PTSD includes being focused on the present, knowing they are in a safe space to learn strategies to focus on detaching from past emotional pain. One great skill is called Grounding. Grounding is designed to “ground” the individual in the present moment. It is utilized to help individuals cope with flashbacks or dissociation. During therapy sessions, it is important to go over educational material and learn skills to practice and use on a daily basis. The core concepts are feeling safe, respecting yourself, learning to trust people, and never giving up.
If you have a loved one struggling with past trauma, be a good listener. Don’t tell someone what they “should do” or how they “should” feel. You can help by letting them know they’re loved and supported. But, overall, it is the best idea to see a therapist to address the problem and find solutions.
If you have experienced a traumatic event or are suffering symptoms, it is very important to seek treatment. It is important to find a treatment provider who you feel addresses your needs and is providing you with the tools to cope, feel supported, and live well.
You can look through the therapists we have on our team at www.telebehavioralhealth.us.