Monday, May 4, 2015

PTSD: Causes and Effects

Picture courtesy of SISHannon

Over the last few weeks we've been discussing PTSD, defining it and calling it out because the things that frighten us the most are those that we don't understand. They hide in the corner, like trolls, where we sneak peeks at them and then dart our eyes away as soon as they look back, afraid that we will be seen. When we step up and drag that troll out of the shadow that it's been hiding in we're able to see that it's not the monster we've created but simply another of life’s curve balls that, when properly dealt with, can give us an opportunity to grow. Like a seasoned batter when we see that curve ball coming we need to throw our hip out and take advantage of it. Today I want to discuss what science thinks they know about PTSD, how and why it happens.

The brain is a complex organ that we don't fully understand and as a result the causes and effects of PTSD are not well understood yet. What we do know is that some people will get it and some will not, there is no one cause for PTSD, and, finally, the time between the event causing it and the onset of symptoms can vary greatly amongst individuals. Lets look at what we do know more closely.

PTSD is a response to trauma, be it war, violence, natural disaster or some other traumatic event but some people who experience those circumstances will walk away unscathed. Only an estimated 7% of the population will ever deal with it, that's 5.2 million people but certainly not everyone. Why? Why will some of us walk away without scars? The truth of the matter is that no one knows for sure why some do and some don't. What we do know for sure is that PTSD is a sign of strength not weakness, those that have it are survivors not cowards.

Photo courtesy of flickr-
Don't let the troll lie to you.

There are theories on the complex set of circumstances that cause one person to get PTSD and another to skip it. What it comes down to is that we are individuals, with individual reactions to stress, don't beat yourself up for being you. It is the very thing that makes you an individual that may cause your PTSD, embrace who you are and begin to heal.

So lets talk about the possible individuality's that make us vulnerable. Although we aren't sure what they are there are common threads that can be seen running amongst us. A history of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can be a factor in how we react to stress and trauma. The life experiences that led us to the moment we developed it can also be a contributor. The intensity of the trauma and temperament of the individual are known to relate directly to the likelihood of PTSD developing. It is my opinion that these two work in tandem with each other. In the end PTSD develops when we feel that we've lost control of our destiny. Will everyone who experiences that loss of control get PTSD? No. But PTSD is more likely in those circumstances.

It makes sense that our life experiences contribute to our risk for PTSD, a life full of stress will overflow at some point. It's our life that makes us who we are. The reality that we must remember in this is that we are not helpless bystanders after the event we can choose to pursue healing and wholeness. We can choose to embrace the trolls that are trying to scare us and use them to grow.

The final point I'd like to address here is the variety between the event that will ultimately cause PTSD and the onset of PTSD itself. Like my previous points, this is individual and not well understood by the medical community. For some PTSD will never occur, for others it will occur immediately and there is broad diversity in between those two extremes. Where ever you fall in that continuum the important thing is that you admit to yourself that you need help dealing with the nightmare that introduced you to your troll and begin to banish it from your life.

Anyway we look at it PTSD is a troll. If you experience a traumatic event you may develop it or not, you may have the risk factors that lead to it and the trolls may take over, temporarily. Those trolls may show themselves immediately or lay in wait for years. What we do know for sure is that we don't have to be victims, we can pull them out and burn them in the light of day and the love of our family and friends and call them what they are, lies that we no longer have to believe.

There is help and recovery from PTSD, it doesn't have to be a life sentence. The brain may be a complex organ that we don't fully understand but researchers are doing what they do best and looking for answers. If you suspect you or a loved one has PTSD then reach out for help. Don't let the trolls win, and, please, don't hurt yourself. You are precious, even if you don't believe it today. Don't listen to the trolls.

Twice a month I review books about PTSD to help you find the resources that will help you the best. Check out my other posts and see what you can find! I also write romance because we can all use a little love in our lives. Peruse my writings and see if you find something you love, then share it with your friends! I write to make others smile, let me know how I did!

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