Sometimes we know the exact moment that led to the PTSD, but often it is the repeated exposure to traumatic instances that builds up over time.
It is characterized by four main areas of disturbance. The first is intrusion. This can look like memories of the event replaying in your mind. At times you can lose contact with today and these memories can feel like they have transported you to a time when you are re-experiencing the event(s). Any similarity to the event can bring right back to those moments. This can be smell, or sound, or anything from the outside world. This can also be a similar internal experience like feeling powerlessness or helpless. You can have distressing dreams related to the traumatic event.
The second is avoidance. Avoidance of memories, thoughts or feelings related to the event. You can find yourself actively steering clear of reminders of the event(s) in an effort to protect yourself from the re-experiencing.
The third is a change in your thoughts and your mood that gets worse after the event(s) of the trauma. You might find your memory of the trauma has been fragmented and that you only have bits and pieces. You may have internalized negative thoughts about yourself or the world around you such as: “I am bad”, “No one can be trusted”, “the world is dangerous”, “it was all my fault”. You might feel completely overwhelmed by fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame. It may be very difficult to receive feedback from a partner without getting stuck in a loop of anger, guilt or shame. Relationships are often affected as even the most gentle feedback feels like one more straw on the camel’s back. You can feel isolated and alone and disconnected from any pleasant feelings.
The fourth thing is that you are much more reactive. That reactivity could be in the form of angry outbursts that can be expressed towards people or objects. It could be self-destructive or reckless behavior. It might be holding yourself on guard and on alert all the time. You might have a sensitive startle response, struggle with concentration or have difficulty with sleep.
People often navigate these symptoms in silence even though they erode away at their social, occupational and relational parts of their lives.
At Lavender Counselling, we support you to understand the context of this diagnosis-what does it actually mean? We help you to ground yourself in the present and to help yourself realize that you are safe in that present moment to help your body register that you are safe in that moment.