Saturday, June 26, 2010

Empaths & PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

"Trauma is so ingrained in us over time, it's hard to change the way we think." This is what someone said to me while we were talking about soldiers over in Afghanistan and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). He went on to say, though, that it was doable....changeable with time.

And it got me thinking, yes about Soldiers, but more to the point...anyone who has suffered through long term trauma. Being someone who has suffered through something like that myself, I guess it struck a cord deep inside me. So I thought I'd offer you a fact sheet on PTSD.

You might be wondering what this has to do with being an Empath. But if you think about it, it's extremely reasonable, because alot of Empaths (not all by any means....but quite a few) come by their hypersensitivity through conditioning in their developmental years. What that means is that alot of Empaths have been abused in some way to cause them to be as hypersensitive as they are.

So this topic, like so many others on this blogsite, is an important one to take note of.

What is PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual's ability to cope.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:

1. Repeated "reliving" of the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity
  • Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again and again
  • Recurrent distressing memories of the event
  • Repeated dreams of the event
  • Physical reactions to situations that remind you of the traumatic event
2. Avoidance
  • Emotional "numbing," or feeling as though you don’t care about anything
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Less expression of moods
  • Staying away from places, people, or objects that remind you of the event
  • Sense of having no future
3. Arousal
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exaggerated response to things that startle you
  • Excess awareness (hypervigilance)
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Sleeping difficulties
You also might feel a sense of guilt about the event (including "survivor guilt"), and the following symptoms, which are typical of anxiety, stress, and tension:
  • Agitation, or excitability
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Feeling your heart beat in your chest (palpitations)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Paleness

How is PTSD treated?

Types of treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD and trauma involves carefully and gradually “exposing” yourself to thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind you of the trauma. Therapy also involves identifying upsetting thoughts about the traumatic event–particularly thoughts that are distorted and irrational—and replacing them with more balanced picture.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. Eye movements and other bilateral forms of stimulation are thought to work by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress, leaving only frozen emotional fragments which retain their original intensity. Once EMDR frees these fragments of the trauma, they can be integrated into a cohesive memory and processed.
  • Family therapy. Since PTSD affects both you and those close to you, family therapy can be especially productive. Family therapy can help your loved ones understand what you’re going through. It can also help everyone in the family communicate better and work through relationship problems.
  • Medication. Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety, but it does not treat the causes of PTSD.

Are there self help tips for PTSD?

Self-help and support for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a gradual, ongoing processing. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, nor do the memories of the trauma ever disappear completely. This can make life seem difficult at times. But there are many things you can do to cope with residual symptoms and reduce your anxiety and fear.

Reach out to others for support
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can make you feel disconnected from others. You may be tempted to withdraw from social activities and your loved ones. But it’s important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. Support from other people is vital to your recovery from PTSD, so ask your close friends and family members for their help during this tough time.

Also consider joining a support group for survivors of the same type of trauma you went through. Support groups for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can help you feel less isolated and alone. They also provide invaluable information on how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery. If you can’t find a support group in your area, look for an online group.

Avoid alcohol and drugs
When you’re struggling with the difficult emotions and traumatic memories, you may be tempted to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. But while alcohol or drugs may temporarily make you feel better, they make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) worse in the long run. Substance use worsens many symptoms of PTSD, including emotional numbing, social isolation, anger, and depression. It also interferes with treatment and can add to problems at home and in your relationships.

Challenge your sense of helplessness
Overcoming your sense of helplessness is key to overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable. It’s important to remind yourself that you have strengths and coping skills that can get you through tough times.

One of the best ways to reclaim your sense of power is by helping others: volunteer your time, give blood, reach out to a friend in need, or donate to your favorite charity. Taking positive action directly challenges the sense of helplessness that contributes to trauma.

Are there websites out there with more information?

National Institute Of Mental Health: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Google Health: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Gateway To Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Information

Most of all....don't be afraid to seek help from a friend, a family member, or a professional if you feel you are in need. You are not alone in the struggle. And there is ALWAYS hope. ^_^


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  2. I have PTSD and have been in cognitive-behavioral therapy for 5 years and EMDR for 3 years.
    Meditation has been a huge help to me. I feel much more in control of my emotions and I suffer from panic attacks less. I think there are several reasons for this, starting with the high level of self-awareness that you are led to with meditation. Just by being aware of my emotions, I feel more in control of them and can do what I need to in order to feel safe before I have a problem. This has built my confidence and self-esteem; it's hard to feel good about yourself when you feel "crazy". The awareness has led to a better understanding of my disorder, particularly of triggers. I now recognize an increase in anxiety (heightened startle response, rapid heart rate) before the panic attack hits which allows me to identify possible causes. Prior to this, the panic would take over all higher functions and I was left not able to recall when I started to feel scared. A type of meditation called "mindfulness" has allowed me to recognize the anxiety, the panic attack, the flashback without the associated guilt of having these problems. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to "see" the emotions you're feeling without letting them take you over. You recognize the fear or anger as you would leaves floating by in a stream. This has helped me to control panic attacks to the point that those close to me haven't noticed anything was wrong, much less that I was going over every single worst case scenario in my head and experiencing the helplessness and suicidal ideation that come with them.
    I recommend meditation to everyone, but it can be especially helpful to those with PTSD and provide a sense of independence and autonomy during recovery in addition to conventional therapies.