Updated: Apr 14
The ripple effects of PTSD
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was known as ‘shell shock’ during World War 1 and usually soldiers who were diagnosed with it, although there was little or no support or understanding around this. However, today there is a lot more understanding and support for people who have been diagnosed with PTSD.
CBT and other talking therapies are beneficial for supporting someone with PTSD. There are many different events/experiences that can cause PTSD. The following are some events that can cause PTSD:
Combat exposure during war or military events.
Childhood neglect and physical abuse
Being threatened with a weapon
Seeing an event were someone lost their life.
There are many more situations that can cause PTSD e.g., any event that is traumatic. Children, young people, and adults can have PTSD. Sometimes, people who are experiencing PTSD can dissociate. This is a safety mechanism when things get too much. It is almost like an outer body experience. You may feel numb, floaty, or have a sense that you cannot explain. Some people feel a jolt when they come back in to the here and now. Which can be confusing and scary.
To help take control and minimise this. Try using grounding techniques. Such as, sit on a chair and imagine your feet rooted into the ground keeping you feeling steady and supported. Feel the pressure in the chair of your body and listen to yourself breathing in and out. (This technique works well with dissociation). Mindfulness exercises work well too and if you are with people, you know you can and you trust them, you can ask them to say your name, gently touch you on your shoulder or make a paper fan and waft it in your face to make you blink and come back in to here and now, the more this is practicing the less dissociation will occur.
Exposure therapy is good for PTSD, as is CBT experiments, mindfulness, relaxation, and visualisations. Sometimes, there is a correlation between PTSD and OCD. There is a 30% chance that someone with PTSD can also have OCD. An example of this is someone seeing a fatality on a road traffic accident, the trauma may cause PTSD and over time usually within a year of the event this can go into OCD. As the observer of the car accident may worry about causing a fatality themselves or worrying about the people they care about. This may turn in to rituals of checking, ensuring that they have not caused an accident. They may worry when their loved ones leave the family home or may not feel like leaving the family home in case, they see a fatality/ car crash.
PTSD and or OCD together can be very debilitating, they can have a ripple effect on the life of the person who has been diagnosed with PTSD. They may feel like a burden on their family or feel like every day is a huge chore.
PTSD can lead to negative thinking whereas the person with PTSD can self-sabotage or make assumptions. This is where CBT is greatly beneficial by using experiment sheets that challenge negative thoughts and assumptions. As I have said in previous blogs about anxiety, our brain is like a supercomputer that we program through out experiences with significant other and our life experiences where we touch others through our travels.
A person who has PTSD and or OCD, can and usually feels like they are going mad. They may feel like there life has been turned upside down. They may reflect and feel confused as there may have been a time when they felt ‘themselves’ that being pre-PTSD where they did everyday things without though or feeling.
This is part of the struggle, to understand and to rationalise what they have experienced and how it has impacted on their everyday life. They may have conflict with their thoughts e.g., have I caused it or not. Their thoughts may become distorted, and they may start to doubt themselves, their actions, and thoughts.
PTSD can be an isolating disorder and can lead to risky or unhealthy activities such as drinking or taking drugs to numb the distress and anxiety they are experiences although this just makes matters worse for them.
People with PTSD, need patience from their families, friends, and work colleagues for them their anxieties are very real, and they feel they are back in the trauma e.g., not necessarily seeing the event but having the feelings. Remember as well as our brain remembering our bodies remember too, the person with PTSD may steer clear of events that may have the underlying feeling that they may have for example ‘fear of killing’ so if we link this into war times / military. The person with PTSD may fear seeing people dead or may fear killing people this may be coupled with hearing noised e.g., explosions, sounds of things crashing or just loud noises in general.
What can we do?
Getting support for your PTSD
Learning to challenge your unhelpful thoughts
Using techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation and visualisation.
Reflecting how you self-sabotage
Sensing where you anxiety starts as this is when you need to start your strategies.
Exposure therapy (only with a trained practitioner)
Using positive affirmations
Speaking to family and friends so that they are aware and are able to support you if you are struggling.
Using distraction techniques
There are many more things you can do that are not on this list, remember the first step is to recognise that you have a difficulty and getting the right support for you.
Message from me
Do not be too hard on yourself, make an agreement with yourself that you can overcome this and remember our brain is a super computer we program through out life, we can always reprogram and minimise, manage or erase the impact of our experiences. Impact meaning the feelings not the experience as the experience will be in our memory.