Trigger warning: this article discusses Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD). It will talk about examples of events (abuse, sexual assault, etc), triggers, and how it feels to be triggered. Practice self-care accordingly.
Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) is a diagnosis that can affect anyone at anytime.
The average person probably thinks of a military veteran when conversations around PTSD pop up. However, any singular traumatic event can trigger PTSD – and so can repetitive and longer-lasting traumas such as child abuse or experiencing discrimination (i.e., racism, homomisia, etc). The latter is considered generally to be Complex PTSD (C-PTSD). Some examples of other events are experiencing/witnessing assault, natural disasters, accidents, terrorist attacks, and dealing with/being diagnosed with a serious medical condition.
Not everyone experiences Post-Traumatic Stress the same way. However, common symptoms include:
- Displaced anger and fear
- Panic/anxiety attacks
- Low self-esteem
- Distrust, isolation
- Shame, guilt, self-blame
- Dissociation or detachment
- Upset stomach, bloating, gas, IBS
- Weight gain (difficult to lose)
- New allergies or skin conditions
- Sleeping issues, insomnia
- Poor memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- Chronic pain
- Muscle tension
- Change in amygdala size
- Hypervigilance (being extremely alert, on edge)
There is a wide variety of triggers that might trigger a recollection of an event. Some common ones include smells, words, and similar situations in media. When this happens, a person doesn’t just remember the event but will actually have a physiological reaction. You may feel you’re being touched or experiencing heat off of a fire that occurred in the memory.
The reactions are physiological. Not only do you remember the event and feel the way you felt, fear and similar reactions occur. It can be hard to come down from this as well.
Therapy can be helpful for many, especially Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
Medications can help as well, specifically antidepressants or anxiety medication.
Meditation and yoga can be helpful as well. Other complementary therapies like massage or acupuncture might help as well.
There is no one perfect or preferred treatment. Just like with most mental illnesses, it depends on what works best for you and your lifestyle.
What It Feels Like
The biggest reason I’m talking about PTSD for Mental Illness Awareness Week is that I have it. It’s something that is incredibly misunderstood. While I believe I’ve had this since childhood, I wasn’t diagnosed until March 17, 2015.
By June of that year, I was writing in-depth posts about the abuse I witnessed or went through. Funny enough, as I watch (or rewatch) shows and movies, I’ve noticed new things around PTSD – like how Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager has PTSD – and how Captain Janeway victim blames Seven instead of really being helpful.
Like with any illness, the unpredictability and lack of control are the biggest issues. Even with trigger warnings – which are incredibly important – I’m not always in a good headspace to read things.
If you have Post-Traumatic Stress, know that you’re not alone. It’s hard to handle this condition, but learning to do self-care really helps.