This Sunday is National PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) Day. At Fait avec Coeur we understand how important it is to care for our emotional state in order to maintain a healthy life. So we’ve dedicated this post to those who suffer from PTSD.
In 2010, Senator Kent Conrad pushed to get official recognition of PTSD via a “day of awareness” in tribute to a North Dakota National Guard member who took his life following two tours in Iraq. It’s fairly common knowledge that men and women who go to war come home a different person - if they come home at all. As the stories say, war changes a person.
It isn’t just war veterans that suffer from PTSD. It can come from any traumatic event in a person’s life, big or small. Some people may not even realize they’re suffering from PTSD, so here we discuss the causes, the symptoms, and ways you can deal with PTSD.
What Causes PTSD?
As mentioned earlier, anything that is traumatic, usually in the form of abuse or neglect can cause a form of PTSD. The most common causes are:
- Combat exposure
- Childhood physical abuse
- Sexual violence
- Physical assault
- Being threatened with a weapon
- An accident
There are many other ways trauma can occur. We’ve all been through life events, and we deal with things differently to one another. Imagine going through the same event as one of your friends or siblings. It’s likely that you will both react and be affected by it differently—perhaps at differing lengths of time.
The Five Types
There are five types of stress disorders identified, according to Best Day Psychiatry. These are:
Normal Stress Response
This type of PTSD is normally caused by events such as accidents, injuries and illnesses. Many of us have probably experienced this kind of PTSD in some way. It’s defined when unreasonable amounts of tension and stress can cause the onset of a Normal Stress Response. It can generally be managed through talking to friends and family for support, and usually doesn’t last for long periods of time.
Acute Stress Disorder
This is a precursor condition, and may develop into PTSD if left untreated. Caused by life-threatening events, like natural disasters, loss of a loved one, or job risk, these high-stress events can cause Acute Stress Disorder. It can be treated through therapy, medication, and psychiatric treatments.
Uncomplicated PTSD is linked to one large traumatic event, rather than multiple events, and is the easiest form of PTSD to treat. Like Acute Stress Disorder, Uncomplicated PTSD can be treated using medication or therapy.
You can probably guess that, as the name suggests, Complex PTSD is complicated. This is due to it being caused by multiple events, such as domestic abuse, or exposure to war. The difference between Uncomplicated and Complex PTSD is the effects it has on a person. Complex PTSD can be diagnosed with borderline or antisocial personality, or dissociative disorders. Substance abuse, sexual impulsivity, anger issues, and depression are all common behavioral issues that come hand-in-hand with Complex PTSD.
Comorbid PTSD is a blanket term for co-occurring disorders. Often people will suffer from more than one condition, and can cause much of the same behaviors as Complex PTSD. The best treatment is to see a professional.
We touched on some of the symptoms in each type of PTSD, but to go into more depth, the condition can affect a person in many ways. Having PTSD can make it difficult for a person to:
- look after themselves;
- hold down a job;
- maintain friendships or relationships;
- remember things and make decisions;
- have a normal sex drive;
- cope with change; and,
- simply just enjoy leisure time.
Twelve of the most common symptoms, according to PTSD survivor Lily Hope Lucario are:
- Fear of trust. Particularly if a caregiver or parent has abused them as a child, it can be difficult for a Complex PTSD survivor to trust anyone. It’s also very easy for that trust to dissipate, as the brain struggles to cope with any small issue it may find in a relationship. Trust can be learnt, but it takes a lot of patience, and usually professional help.
- Terminal loneliness. This is when the PTSD survivor has trouble connecting with another human being. They struggle to make relationships, and they often feel like an outcast, even when they are in a social setting with people they know. Socializing can exacerbate the feelings of being alone and detached, so in most cases they will intentionally isolate themselves.
- Emotion regulation. Being through one or more traumatic events can cause a person’s emotions to go into overdrive. They can be subject to intense emotional outbursts, and introspective emotional pain that they have trouble managing.
- Visual - where they relive the trauma in their mind;
- Somatic - where they feel pain in areas of their body that received abuse or trauma;
- Emotional - the hardest to understand, but the most common for Complex survivors. Emotions get triggered often by events that do not reflect the trauma, but can cause them to react in the same way they did during the trauma, which can often be an irrational reaction.
What to Do if You, or a Loved One is Suffering
If you realize that you might have some form of PTSD, seeking help is imperative. We list places you can get help at the end of this this article. If someone you love is suffering, it can be difficult to help them, as oftentimes they won’t want your help, or they don’t believe they need help. So, while it can be difficult to navigate, it's important to be there for them.
What Shouldn’t You Say?
Here are some things you should never say to someone who is suffering from PTSD, and what you can say instead, according to Katie Waskowiak, emotional health writer:
Do not say: “It wasn’t even life threatening”.
Try instead: “I know you’re scared because of it, but you're safe now”.
Do not say: “People have been through worse”.
Try instead: “You can get through this hardship.”
Do not say: “Stop over-reacting”.
Try instead: “I understand you’re scared, but I’m going to be right here next to you the whole time so that nothing happens. Let’s do this.”
Do not say: “You’re faking it”.
There is no alternative response to this — but there is an alternative reaction: educate yourself on the disorder so you can better understand what your loved one might be feeling.
Do not say: “I’ve been through something similar and I don’t have PTSD, so you don’t have it either”.
Again, educate yourself. You do not know someone’s story; maybe this event was the straw that broke the camel’s back (or you know, the event that “broke” the brain). Not everyone who’s been held up at gun-point has post-traumatic stress disorder, just like not everyone who’s been raped has PTSD. Someone who was shot in the ankle may be perfectly OK mentally, but that doesn’t mean someone having been robbed is.
“You realize you’re being completely illogical right now, right?”.
Try instead: “I know that your brain is telling you that everywhere you go and everything you do could cause a trigger/you to feel as if you’re in danger. Try to keep repeating to yourself that you are safe, no one is going to hurt you and you will be OK.”
Do not say: “Stop being so dramatic.”
Try instead: “Deep breath. Let’s talk through this. Why do you feel this way?”
Do not say: “You said you were OK.”
Alternative: Don’t always believe them when they say they are OK. They are often not OK. So instead of just leaving them be, maybe do something that will make them feel a little better. Anything to make them feel as if you not only care, but you care enough to bring them something that could potentially make them feel OK, if even for a short time.
What if You’re the One Suffering?
It’s incredibly important to seek help if you have PTSD in any way. Even the mildest form of PTSD can affect our relationships, our careers, and our growth as human beings. We’re living in a time where it’s more acceptable to ask for help. There are many options available, and it is completely confidential.
SAMHSA’s is a free national helpline in the US. You can seek help from a licensed therapist in person, or get instant online access to therapists using platforms like Better Help. Group therapy - online or in-person - is also a great option - try Pace or Sondermind. Or for something more immersive, there are also retreats you can go to, like The Recovery Ranch in Tennessee.
We hope that this guide helped shed some light on PTSD, and we urge those who are suffering to please get help. It’s out there waiting for you, you just need to take the leap.
Emma Masotti is an Australian now living in Austin, TX, and has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn’t cost the earth.
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