A Closer Look at PTSD

One of the areas of work I feel particularly passionate about in my practice is facilitating recovery after a traumatic incident. Last week, I began a discussion of trauma and PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder, one of my areas of specialty.

We often think of veterans when we think of PTSD. In large part, much of what we do know about trauma and PTSD is a result of the experiences of Vietnam veterans. Prior to that, while trauma responses existed, there had not been a whole lot of focus on understanding traumatic reactions. Although PTSD tends to be the issue that most often comes to mind when we consider trauma, there are a number of other responses to trauma, including things such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and difficulties in relationships. We will address some of these elements but, in our multi-episode Looking at Trauma series, we will mostly focus on PTSD. Most of these other issues are embedded within the constellation of PTSD and will make more sense as we understand PTSD.

To begin with, it’s important to understand what exactly a trauma is…

If we think about the definition of a trauma, it’s generally defined by dictionaries as a deeply distressing or disturbing occurrence. Often, in medical contexts, it’s described as a disruption. Different experts and different fields describe trauma in different ways, which can be confusing and even intimidate if we are looking to do our research.

However, there are some common elements in thinking about what a trauma specifically is. From the lens of mental health or psychology, trauma, as described by the American Psychological Association, is typically an emotional and somatic response to a terrible, overwhelming, situation.

According to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, traumatic events are shocking and emotionally overwhelming situations that may involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to physical integrity. While the World Health Organization describes trauma as more of an emergent/disaster based situation.

There are a number of different events that can be traumatic. Some examples of these situations that may immediately come to mind include a serious and potentially life-threatening accident, assault, natural disaster, or combat. Other types of experiences can be traumatic as well such as surviving or witnessing a crime or physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as bullying or even a big move. Sometimes, trauma responses can follow any major change or disruption in a person’s life.

Many people are exposed to traumatic events. In the time immediately following a trauma, most people will have the experiences of PTSD that we will talk about. However, over time, for many people, those experiences naturally decrease, and they are not diagnosed with PTSD. In other words, they naturally recover from the traumatic event. There are some people who do not recover and are later diagnosed with PTSD. Based on that, it is helpful to think of PTSD as a problem in recovery. Something got in the way of you having that natural process of recovery, and the work of therapy is to determine what got in the way and to change it so that you can recover from what happened. You and your therapist will be working to get you ̳unstuck.

Let’s look at this in more depth…

Because we know that PTSD experiences are nearly universal immediately following very serious traumatic stressors and that recovery takes a few months under normal circumstances, it may be best to think about diagnosable PTSD as a disruption or stalling out of a normal recovery process, rather than the development of a unique psychopathology. A therapist needs to determine what has interfered with normal recovery. In one case, it may be that someone believes that they will be overwhelmed by the amount of emotional reactivity that will emerge if he stops avoiding and numbing himself. Perhaps s/he was taught as a child that emotions are bad, that s/he should just get over it.‖ In another case, someone may have refused to talk about what happened with anyone because s/he blames herself for ―letting‖ the event happen and she is so shamed and humiliated that s/he is convinced that others will blame her, too. In a third case, a person may have seen something so horrifying that every time s/he falls asleep and dreams about it, s/he wakes up in a cold sweat. So, in order to sleep, s/he drinks heavily. Yet another person may be so convinced that s/he will be victimized again that s/he refuses to go out anymore and has greatly restricted his/her activities and relationships. In still another case, in which other people were killed, a person may have survivor guilt and obsesses over why s/he was spared when others were killed. S/he feels unworthy and experiences guilt whenever s/he laughs or finds himself enjoying something. In all these instances, thoughts or avoidance behaviors are interfering with emotional processing and reshaping our beliefs. There are as many individual examples of things that can block a smooth recovery as there are individuals with PTSD.

There are several categories of experiences that tend to follow a traumatic event. Last week, we more closely examined each of the categories.

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The Vicious Cycle of Trauma and PTSD

As a Good Therapy Topic Expert, it is important to me to share information about the impact PTSD. In particular, with June the month of PTSD awareness, it is crucial to help provide accurate information about the struggles with this challenging experience.

Posttraumatic stress is characterized by intrusion, arousal, avoidance, and cognitive shifts—a cyclical experience that impedes the natural recovery process. You can read more about these experiences in my Good Therapy article here.

What did you learn in reading this? I’d love to hear your reactions and realizations – hit reply and let me know!

Curious what I can offer you to help build the life you love? Get in touch!

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An Introduction to CPT for PTSD

Last week, I shared an overview of PTSD with a brief video. In the coming weeks, I will be exploring a bit more specific information about each cluster of what comprises PTSD. As we move forward in the next several weeks with this examination, I wanted to share an article I recently wrote for Natural Awakenings magazine wherein I take a closer look at one of the gold standard treatments for PTSD, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). 

This short-term approach for PTSD issues has been documented to provide long-standing relief in a number of scientifically robust studies. I have also seen it transform the lives of many people grappling with the challenges brought on by living with haunting trauma symptoms. It has been meaningful for me to be one of the few in NY state to offer this highly effective programs.

What areas of PTSD do you or a loved one struggle with?? Send me a quick email to let me know – that way, I can support you with information that can be helpful.

Curious what I can offer you to help build the life you love? Get in touch!  

Connect with me to see what support I can offer!

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Understanding PTSD

For many  people, PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder, is a daily struggle. In fact, this is true for one out of every nine women. For others, it might be something that a loved one struggles with. Still, a great deal of people have a bit of unclarity as to what PTSD entails. The video above gives an overview of the common features we see in PTSD.

What did you learn in watching this video? Share your thoughts and reactions in our Facebook and Twitter communities!

Curious what I can offer you to help build the life you love? Get in touch!  

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LAST CALL: Mindful Mondays Enrollment Closing!

You may be finding yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed and run-down. You might be having a hard time catching your breath and feel rushed from one thing to the next without a moment to slow your racing mind down. There are tools and strategies to help you focus, find your footing again, and even feel the relief in your body and mind.

I have been so excited about bringing back the Mindful Monday 8 session series! We recently had a brief glimpse into Mindfulness with our Mindfulness Matters 5 Day Challenge + 3 Bonus Days where people joined us from seven US states and four countries! In fact, people have shared with me that they are revisiting the challenge yet again on their own! Several people have also requested that I run the challenge again, too!

The exciting news is that we can broaden this practice in our Mindful Monday 8 session series! Our last round of the series brought so much benefit to our community. Here are some of the comments from group members:

“It was a really nice way to get myself into the mindset for a productive and calm week.”

“I learned so much about my body and mind and how my feelings showed up around them from these groups.”

“Sharing this with the others in the group made it a more deep experience for me. I gained a lot from each of the other people!”

This is one of my favorite practices and I am so thrilled about bringing it back to help people who are feeling stressed, unfocused, and overwhelmed get back on track.

Mindfulness offers so many benefits and ways of enhancing our lives – from Mindful eating to improving our mood, focusing, and increasing our productivity to building better relationships, this practice brings with it so many opportunities to deepen the experiences in your life. Learn a bit more in my interview with Rockland World Radio’s “Connections with Deborah Turner.”

I will be closing enrollment for this group on Saturday, April 1st. If you’re ready to get information on how this series can benefit your life, just click below for more access.

Don’t forget to read more about this exciting group at Inner Realm magazine.

10 Benefits of PMR

We looked at a great way of reducing tension and getting your body and mind relaxed with an introduction to Progressive muscle relaxation.  Now, let’s extend those great benefits with some additional ones!

Here are 10 additional benefits of PMR:

  • A decrease in your heart rate
  • A lowering of your blood pressure
  • A decrease in your rate of breathing
  • Your shoulders and chest will have relaxed, and so your breath will be deeper and not so shallow and high up in the chest.
  • Better oxygen levels in your bloodstream
  • Your brain wave activity will shift from beta waves to an increase in alpha waves, resulting in a more relaxed mental state with less mental chatter
  • Less muscle tension throughout your body
  • Decreased anxiety and panic
  • Lowers insomnia by relaxing restlessness and racing thoughts
  • Reduce nausea

How have you been enjoying PMR in your life? Share it to inspire others at the Chrysalis Psychological Services community.   Don’t forget to get your PMR script along with a complimentary audio guided exercise. Grab yours here!

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Goddess Curriculum Group: LAST CHANCE!

This week is our last chance offer to enroll in our innovative support group for women grappling with the aftermaths of a trauma. If you have been in an overwhelming situation that you left you feeling helpless, suffered a major accident, or have a history of sexual/physical violence, talk to me to see how this group can help you feel “unstuck” and get your life back.

goddess-curriculum

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