Trigger Warning: The following content can be triggering for individuals undergoing severe mental distress. Reach out to Rena if you’re in need of support and comfort.
Do you still get flashbacks of the night that changed your life completely?
Do you feel like your harasser is lurking somewhere near you, even when you’re in safe company?
Do you hear gunshots and see visions of a disturbing incident that you’ve tried so hard to forget?
These are all signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is a mental condition characterized by nightmares, crippling anxiety, flashbacks, and terrifying reminders of a traumatic incident. You may experience extreme distress or exhibit physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, and nausea.
The DSM-V has categorized the symptoms of PTSD into exposure, intrusion, avoidance, alteration, and arousal. Here’s more about these diagnostic categories.
You may have encountered one traumatic event—a car accident, natural disaster, or assault—or experienced a series of abusive events such as psychological abuse in a relationship.
The limbic system initiates a fight, flight, or freeze response when such traumas attack your mind. You repress the memory of your trauma(s) in your unconscious mind as a flight response.
In the case of PTSD, the trauma imprints on your memory and makes you feel like you’re living it in your present.
Trauma can affect your mind and body in numerous ways. The distressing memories can come back to you in the form of visions or dreams.
That’s when memories become intrusive and threaten to take away your agency. You may lose control over your actions and feel like your reality is slipping through your hands.
That’s when PTSD hijacks your mind and body.
You will try your best to avoid recurring memories of your traumatic incident. The avoidance can go as far as rejecting ideas, places, or people faintly related to your trauma.
However, to avoid, you need a distraction that’s strong enough to make you forget. You may end up with substance abuse, dissociation, or obsessive behaviors.
Even though the purpose is to avoid trauma, the consequences are far greater than that.
Traumas can change people, shape lives, and transform the relationship you have with people, things, or places. By extension, PTSD can affect your social network by altering your relationships at home.
You lean toward negative conclusions of seemingly neutral problems. You also form negative associations with ordinary things like flowers, cars, or books. This may lead to a negative self-image and ideas of victimhood.
Ideas like “I attract misery, the world is terrible, and no one can be trusted,” will often cross your mind due to PTSD.
You may try to suppress trauma inside your body, but it’ll inevitably come out. This can cause functional and behavioral change as you start experiencing arousal symptoms.
You may become hypervigilant, have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or give knee-jerk reactions to stimuli. This can manifest in the form of physical illnesses or chronic shock as well.
However, such reactions can land you in high-risk situations where you need external help to protect yourself.
Rena Greenberg is an experienced hypnotherapist who has helped 100,000 people overcome their traumas.
She is conducting her private sessions over Skype or by phone. Apart from trauma healing, she also offers self-hypnosis weight loss programs.