By DR. TED WIARD
Golden Willow Retreat
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become a common word within our society as media sources, education, health experts, and other platforms of information have implemented them into our day-to-day conversations.
This is good as more people are aware of PTSD and realize this is a real dilemma for many people for many generations. I am often asked what PTSD means in “normal words”, not medical or scientific.
I realized that PTSD had become so common that many people do not truly know what it means. When a word, or acronym, is generically used, the actual meaning can be diluted, and the actual depth of a serious issue can be lost.
PTSD is a condition which brings back a memory of a trauma with intense emotional and/or physical symptoms. The trauma may have derived from events such as natural disasters, serious accidents, combat, and other events that have threatened death, sexual violence, or other types of serious injury.
Symptoms of PTSD occur when the psyche re-experiences the event, consciously or unconsciously, these symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, emotional or physical dysregulation due to words, objects, or situations, disruption in everyday routine, anxiety or panic attacks, and other symptoms that take someone back to the event or events. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues may arise as well from PTSD.
One way to think about PTSD is to imagine the brain suddenly being put in reverse due to a certain catalyst and the brain goes back to a memory in which it gets deeply caught in that memory to the point that the nervous system is thinking it is happening in the present moment. All the alerts of danger are triggered, and the nervous system overrides the cognitive part of the brain that may “know” this is not happening in the moment and goes into a high alert gear to keep someone safe and alive. Quite often short-term memory decreases, high impulsivity increases, hypervigilance and irritation increase, and the entire system is in the limbic part of the brain of fight, flight, or freeze.
Emotionally the brain has regressed back to that time (or even back further) and cognitively, the brain has regressed, causing the reality of the present moment to be taken out the equation for action.
PTSD is very real and quite often needs professional support from the medical and behavioral health professions in order to help the brain reboot into the present moment of feeling safe once again. In addition to professional care, all four quadrants of health need care. Self-care, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually can help balance the past with the present in order to regain homeostasis and a balanced baseline of emotional equilibrium.
Finding the supports that serve the person experiencing PTSD is critical and individualized, in finding support, old wounds can heal and become support in other life events rather than something that depletes the quality of someone’s life. I wish you well, and until the next article, take care and be safe.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com or call at 575.776.2024. Weekly virtual grief groups, at no charge, are being offered to help support emotional well-being. Information can be accessed through www.goldenwillowretreat.org.