The arousal symptoms of PTSD most commonly overlap with the symptoms of Panic and Anxiety. Imagine your body is like a car engine. With PTSD (and anxiety/panic) your engine is always revved up and ready to go. It’s like you have your foot on the gas pedal and on the brake, this way all you have to do it let off the brake and off you go. The flight, fight, freeze survival system our body has does this on purpose so you do not waste precious time accelerating, which makes sense if you are in a life and death situation, the problem is when your body starts to react like this to regular day to day stress. Imagine what happens to a car engine if you constantly rev the engine while holding down the brakes. It gets worn down and starts to break down. This is what happens to our body when it is under the constant strain of anxiety. Fatigue and exhaustion are all common experiences for those who suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and panic. With PTSD, the body is always revved up and ready to go, aka it is in a state of arousal; that means muscles are tense, breathing and heart rate are fast, and blood pressure is high. People with PTSD often feel on edge, on guard, easily startled, and hyper vigilant. This also primes them to be more easily irritated and angry. It is also very hard to concentrate and sleep. So the primary way to cope with symptoms of arousal is slow the body down through 1) Breathing and 2) Soothing.…read more
The Optimistic Child by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. teaches you how to “immunize” your child against depression by teaching them how to think optimistically. Dr. Seligman is the former president of the American Psychological Association and the founder of the Positive Psychology movement. I absolutely loved his book and I recommend it for anyone, even if you don’t have kids. It is a very dense read. It did make me feel like this was a textbook for a course on child psychology, but what you learn from it is invaluable. The Optimistic Child basically outlines, in a very clear, easy to follow manner, how to use cognitive behavioral therapy in your life. If you want to know what a CBT therapist does in session read this book! Dr. Seligman advocates that every parent has to first learn how to use these skills themselves before they can teach it to their own kids. My poor kids have a psychologist for a mother and I of course read this thinking about how I can help my own kids but the target range for the program here is for 8 to 13 year olds. Children under 8 years don’t yet have the ability for meta-cognition so the approach is a bit different but Dr. Seligman addresses this too at the end of his book.
A few of the key highlights from the book:
Optimism is not just a look at the silver lining, think positive, or wear rose colored glasses approach to life. Optimism, as taught in cognitive behavioral therapy, is how you explain the things that go on around you. It is your explanatory style. Dr. Seligman outlines 3 patterns of thinking that differ the most between optimists and pessimists:…read more
Last week we reviewed what PTSD looks like (you can read about those symptoms here). This week we are going to review why PTSD develops. The focus will be on the role our Fight – Flight – Freeze survival response system plays in the development and maintenance of PTSD.
Fight – Flight – Freeze Survival Response System
Is our instinctual survival system that keeps us safe and protects us from harm:
Fight = stay and fight off the danger/threat
Flight = run away from the danger/threat
Freeze = shut down physical or emotional pain to just survive when you know you can’t escape or fight back.…read more
When we talk about trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) we think of specific events: Combat, Rape, Assault, Fire, Car Accident, etc… However, there are 3 other types of events that occur daily, little by little, over a long period of time that are also traumatic and can lead to the development of PTSD in some people:
One night you make your partner’s favorite meal: steak. You go out of your way to get it just right and look forward with hope to see the smile on his face when he sees you remembered his favorite and nailed it. Dinner goes smoothly. He loved it and praised your excellent cooking skills. All is good. Two weeks later you decide to do the same thing. Surprise him with his favorite steak dinner. This time though, as soon as he realizes it he starts berating you for wasting money, steak is expensive! He blames you for all your financial troubles starting with buying steak! Then he berates your cooking: overdone, under seasoned, etc… You are no good, you’re stupid, you’re lucky he’s even with you! Uncertainty. You never know if what you do will please him or upset him. You and everyone else walk on eggshells around him. Life is an uncertain mess and because of that you are always on guard, always on alert, just waiting for something to go wrong. Another example: …read more
You’ve been there before: you have a long, stressful day at work, and you can’t wait until you get home to kick off your shoes and have a drink. It is a way to unwind from the cares of the day. There is nothing wrong with that, right? Or perhaps your family is very intense, you love them, but man the only way to survive a family dinner or backyard BBQ is with a cold one in your hands. After all, that is what keeps you from telling Aunt Sally what you really think or from getting into a political debate with Grandpa Joe. There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these scenarios. The problem begins when turning to alcohol to “unwind” or to “tolerate others” starts to become your go-to, your default mode of dealing with stress. This is the biggest pitfall of using alcohol to deal with stress:
It makes you LESS able to handle stress
Although everyone responds differently after sexual trauma, certain phases of emotions are common among survivors. Therapy can help with each of them. Follow the link to read an article I wrote for Good Therapy on this important topic:
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that some people develop over time after having experienced trauma. It is normal to experience nightmares, be extremely upset by bad memories, want to avoid reminders, feel sad and angry, and feel on guard after a trauma. When these symptoms persist over time is when it may turn into PTSD. There are so many factors that affect whether or not someone gets PTSD but the important thing to remember is that it is NOT a sign of weakness. Rather, it means your body is extra good at staying in survival mode. Therapy can help you learn to slow down that survival mode and begin to enjoy life again. You can learn more about PTSD here: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/…/PTSD-over…/basics/what-is-ptsd.asp