Wondering If You Have Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)?
Have you ever wondered if you are experiencing PTSD? At Guided Wellness Counseling in St. George, UT we specialize in helping women overcome depression, anxiety and trauma. We find that the experiences of these three things (depression, anxiety and trauma / PTSD) have a lot in common. We often think of them as cousins that run around together or like hotel rooms that share a wall. In today’s blog we’re going to give you the clarity you need to better understand PTSD and how PTSD symptoms may be showing up in your life. Let’s figure this out together!
What Does PTSD Look Like In Real Life?
Let’s start with better understanding how one experience can feel or look different to different people. For example, you know you are struggling emotionally when you find yourself in tears after some everyday event, like the offhand comment by a friend or loved one that just hits you wrong… or even a television commercial. Is this normal moodiness and emotion or the tearfulness that can accompany depression? Or is it a response to a triggering event related to past trauma?
How about this example – have you realized you are avoiding activities you used to enjoy? Does the thought of socializing feel scary? These are great questions and you may be wondering if this is just a quiet season of life or anxiety. Or maybe it’s PTSD… my goodness. Even for a licensed therapist it can take time to iron out if what you are experiencing is life, personality / personal preferences, or a mental health concern.
How Do You Know If What You Have Is Depression, Anxiety, or PTSD?
Answering that question will take some explaining. Depression is a common response to grief and loss and can also be caused by an imbalance of chemicals affecting the brain. This can result from many causes including poor sleep, poor nutrition, negative thought patterns, or being genetically prone to depressive states (e.g. nothing may trigger your depression – it just happens because you are predisposed to feeling this way).
Like depression, chronic anxiety may also be linked to genetics, poor sleep or nutrition and fearful thought patterns. However, both depression and anxiety are also symptoms of PTSD. So, how do you know if you have PTSD? Of course, the best way to find out is to see a licensed mental health professional. But the following information may help you form your own preliminary opinion.
PTSD is different in that there must be a traumatic event for you to experience it. Your genetics may make you a little more likely to experience PTSD following a traumatic event. But, unlike depression and anxiety, it can’t just show up out of nowhere. PTSD symptoms can include feeling depressed and anxiety but it also has trademark symptoms such as flashbacks, reoccurring dreams or memories of the event and avoiding thoughts, feeling, people or places that are related to the traumatic event.
The Connection Between Traumatic Events and PTSD
PTSD is a condition that can arise after a person has experienced a traumatic event which is repeatedly “re-lived” (or triggered) in the nervous system and results in anxious and/or depressive symptoms. So, what qualifies as a traumatic event? The definition has changed a lot over time.
The medical and psychological community used to think of trauma in terms of a first-hand exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. More recently, this definition was expanded to include witnessing such an event happening to others; learning that such an event happened to a close friend or family member; or experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to details of such an event such as first responders collecting human remains, etc. Many mental health professionals think of this kind of trauma as “Big T” trauma. But there are “Little t” traumas that can be just as devastating.
Some examples of “Little t” traumas: being raised by an alcoholic or drug-addicted parent; losing a parent or other loved one to illness, death, or divorce; infidelity; school or online bullying; or being punished for expressing feelings. These and many other unhealthy situations can cause a loss of self-worth and bring about a sense of helplessness and shame, which often manifest as depressive and anxious symptoms.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PTSD AND TRAUMA?
The difference between PTSD and trauma is this: trauma is the underlying cause of PTSD, or to put it another way, PTSD is the mental health classification that is given when a person is repeatedly triggered to re-experience past traumatic events. When trauma happens sometimes a person develops PTSD. Other people develop depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more. So, what can be done? Is it possible to just push those feelings down and act as though everything’s fine? Many people have tried this approach, often with the “help” of alcohol or other substances that dull the senses, overworking or avoidance. For a while, this may work. But the problem is that this method causes its own problems—relationship difficulties and trouble keeping up with family or job responsibilities.
Not only that, the subconscious automatically tries to heal these unresolved issues. So you get disturbing dreams or nightmares, or perhaps intrusive memories of the trauma, or just “inexplicable” emotions like anger, irritability, sadness or lethargy. Stuffing these feelings down doesn’t work in the long run—it just makes things worse for you and your loved ones over time.
HELP FOR PTSD AND TRAUMA IN ST. GEORGE, UT
Fortunately, PTSD is treatable and, in many cases, curable, thanks to the development of clinically proven and evidence-based treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Internal Family Systems (IFS). Treatment for PTSD requires willingness to talk about what happened and to feel the feelings in a safe, controlled setting with the help of a trained mental health professional.
Your therapist will likely start with calming and stabilizing exercises that will help you manage any feelings that arise during and between sessions. It is important to take this part of therapy seriously, even if the exercises seem basic, because they can make a big difference in how “bumpy” your healing journey is. If you believe that you or a loved one is experiencing PTSD, I hope you will take advantage of our complimentary 15 minute phone consultation. We can match you with a Guided Wellness Counseling therapist who is trained in EMDR trauma therapy or Internal Family Systems – both great options for adults who are coping with traumatic events. Click here to call now or book your consultation for later this week using the button below! We look forward to serving you.