Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
article is adapted from the National Institute of Mental Health.)
victim of post-traumatic stress describes her experience:
“I was raped when I
was 25 years old. For a long time, I spoke about the rape as though it was
something that happened to someone else. I was very aware that it had happened
to me, but there was just no feeling.”
“Then I started
having flashbacks. They kind of came over me like a splash of water. I would be
terrified. Suddenly I was reliving the rape. Every instant was startling. I
wasn’t aware of anything around me, I was in a bubble, just kind of floating.
And it was scary. Having a flashback can wring you out.”
“The rape happened
the week before Thanksgiving, and I can’t believe the anxiety and fear I feel
every year around the anniversary date. It’s as though I’ve seen a werewolf. I
can’t relax, can’t sleep, don’t want to be with anyone. I wonder whether I’ll
ever be free of this terrible problem.”
stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved
physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may
have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or
the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or
was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can
result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture,
being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks,
plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
with PTSD may startle easily, become emotionally numb (especially in relation
to people with whom they used to be close), lose interest in things they used
to enjoy, have trouble feeling affectionate, be irritable, become more
aggressive, or even become violent. They avoid situations that remind them of
the original incident, and anniversaries of the incident are often very
difficult. PTSD symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was
deliberately initiated by another person, as in a mugging or a kidnapping. Most
people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day
and in nightmares when they sleep. These are called flashbacks. Flashbacks may
consist of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, and are often triggered by
ordinary occurrences, such as a door slamming or a car backfiring on the
street. A person having a flashback may lose touch with reality and believe
that the traumatic incident is happening all over again.
every traumatized person develops full-blown or even minor PTSD. Symptoms
usually begin within 3 months of the incident but occasionally emerge years
afterward. They must last more than a month to be considered PTSD. The course
of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have
symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.
affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any
age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and
there is some evidence that susceptibility to the disorder may run in families.
PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or one or more of the
other anxiety disorders.
can be very effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD.
you live in Santa Cruz and vicinity and you are interested in psychotherapy,
you are welcome to call:
Strachan, Ph.D. at (831) 685-3100.