PTSD: A Layman’s Guide



Let’s talk a little about PTSD. Since this will be a theme on this blog, I want to dispel some misconceptions and myths. Hopefully this will help people understand such a complex disorder.

1) PTSD not what you think. It is not what the media thinks. You can have it and not know it.

2) Trauma is not what you think it is. Trauma is not what the media thinks it is. Trauma does not have to be a death; it does not have to be explosions; it does not have to be cancer; it does not have to be a near death experience, and it does not have to be witnessing a horrific thing such as gang rape. Trauma can be someone yelling at you; trauma can be someone ignoring you; trauma can be intense humiliation; trauma can be deep rejection, and trauma can be horrible betrayal. Trauma is that which wounds us so profoundly that we are permanently changed creatures.

3) There are two types of PTSD: Complex PTSD and PTSD. C-PTSD results from multiple traumas or multiple forms of abuse. PTSD is typically centered around just one event. C-PTSD is an accumulation.

4) You can get PTSD (or C-PTSD) from emotional abuse. This is possible. There are studies backing this up. Just because you weren’t “abused as badly” or “it was just words,” it doesn’t mean that you aren’t at risk or possibly suffer from PTSD. You can get it without being physically hurt.

5) Flashbacks don’t really work the way most people think they do. Every flashback is different. Sometimes you see things and sometimes you hear things. Sometimes a traumatic memory is played on a loop in your head, and the thoughts and feelings consume you for days. Sometimes you just feel like you’re emotionally re-experiencing the traumatic event. A lot of survivors of traumatic events don’t recognize those feelings as a flashback and therefore do not process upsetting events very well.

6) One of the most prominent symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. This can manifest as avoiding a single person or location. This can also be doing things like constantly distracting yourself so you don’t have to dwell on very upsetting memories or developing unhealthy habits such as constant drinking. This can lead to things like agoraphobia or other anxiety disorders.

7) PTSD develops because you experienced a very real threat to your safety and your brain wants to protect you from experiencing that again. It’s trying to remind you so you can avoid being in harm’s way again. This is your body’s attempt to save you. Don’t resent it too much. It’s trying to help.

8) People with PTSD startle easily and are hyper-vigilant in seemingly benign situations. This is because, as stated above, your brain is trying to protect you. Don’t get too upset or frustrated with yourself when you experience this. Respect your body. It wants to help.

9) Respect your trauma. Respect. Your. Trauma. So many people feel guilty bringing up something “benign” because “someone has it worse.” That is a normal reaction. People – and the media – tend to minimize things like emotional abuse or neglect. Those have scientifically been proven to be very traumatic. Respect your trauma. Just because someone has had a shittier situation, it doesn’t mean that yours isn’t shitty as well. Respect that. Know that your pain is real and your trauma is real. This is how healing from PTSD begins.

10) You don’t have to be a soldier to have PTSD.

If you constantly think about a traumatic encounter, constantly /avoid/ thinking about that encounter, have triggers such as seeing someone or going to a certain location, have anxiety or panic attacks when thinking about the event/person, feel unsafe all the time, or are easily startled, please see a mental health professional. You might have more than “just” anxiety. Your quality of life can be improved with treatment and medication. Respect your body. Respect your trauma. Respect your healing. Respect your worth.



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