June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents, or military combat.
Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD including military troops who served in wars; rescue workers for catastrophes like the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.; survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing; survivors of accidents, rape, physical or sexual abuse, and other crimes; immigrants fleeing violence in their countries; survivors of earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes; and those who witness traumatic events. Family members of victims can develop the disorder as well.
PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop the disorder than men, and there is some evidence that it may run in families. PTSD is frequently accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.
Roughly 30 percent of Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. The disorder also has been detected in as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, about 6% to 11% of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and about 12% to 20% of veterans of the Iraq war.
Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already stressful situation and may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what you do in the war, the politics around the war, where it’s fought, and the type of enemy you face.Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while you are in the military. MST can happen to men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war. Among veterans using VA health care, about 23 out of 100 women (23%) reported sexual assault when in the military, 55 out of 100 women (55%) and 38 out of 100 men (38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.
PTSD is diagnosed when the stress symptoms following exposure have persisted for at least a month. When symptoms develop immediately after exposure, the condition may be called acute stress disorder.*
Last June I made a YouTube video about my own PTSD Recovery:
PTSD expert, Michele Rosenthal, lit up my life last year when she shared my video on her Heal My PTSD website (click here).
Michele Rosenthal is an award-winning PTSD blogger, bestselling and award-nominated author, founder of HealMyPTSD.com, host of Changing Direction radio, and a former faculty member of the Clinical Development Institute for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. She is also a trauma survivor who struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for over twenty-five years before launching a successful “healing rampage.” Her most recent book is Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity (W. W. Norton).
This year, I got the privilege of interviewing Michele Rosenthal!!
This is incredibly exciting because I owe my recovery process to her. If you think you might suffer from PTSD, subscribe to HealMyPTSD.com and enjoy all the FREE resources; I know I do.
Without further ado, my interview of Michele Rosenthal:
How long did you suffer from PTSD before you sought treatment specifically for PTSD?
Sadly, my story is like so many survivors with PTSD: I struggled for too many years without understanding what was wrong with me. While I intermittently sought help from the mental health and medical communities 24 years went by before I finally received the PTSD diagnosis — and that was because of my own self-advocacy. I was getting worse and worse in therapy and decided to do my own research about my symptoms. The research led me to PTSD literature and a PTSD self-test like the one we have on the Heal My PTSD web site. I took the test and scored extremely high, then took those results to a trauma trained therapist for direction, guidance and ultimately a diagnosis.
What were your PTSD symptoms?
The usual mix: Anxiety, insomnia, recurring nightmare, numbness, avoidance, intrusive thoughts, unpredictable emotional swings, rage, dissociation, hypervigilance.
How exactly was your PTSD diagnosed (did a doctor surprise you with the news or did you tell your doctor that’s what you suspect the problem to be)?
I showed my therapist at the time the results of the PTSD self-test and asked if he thought I had PTSD. He responded, “What is PTSD?” That’s when I knew I needed to specifically find a trauma trained therapist to help me. She immediately recognized the symptoms and history.
What specific combination of healing exercises helped you recover from PTSD?
A mix of traditional and alternative processes that I put together based on what made me feel most comfortable. I started with talk therapy that included cognitive behavioral therapy, then added Emotional Freedom Technique, Thought Field Therapy, EMDR, Tapas Acupressure technique, acupuncture, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming. Whew, it took a lot to get me to freedom but it was worth it!
How long have you been free from PTSD symptoms?
Eight fabulous, fun, joyful and wonderful years. Which is not to say there haven’t been traumas! Indeed, the most exciting part of recovery has been experiencing another life-threatening trauma (very close to the category of my original trauma) and coming through it with zero repercussions. Healing really can happen — and stick.
Any advice for those trying to heal their PTSD?
Engage and participate in your healing.
For too long I thought others (i.e. therapists) could/would do it for me. Well, with that attitude I didn’t get very far. In the end only we can truly facilitate our recovery. Everyone else is there to support, guide and help.
To keep yourself moving forward keep making choices and taking actions. These are the mechanics of healing and they offer you a process to gain and keep healing momentum every day.
Access and feed your hope. There will be dark, horrible, awful days in PTSD recovery. During those moments it’s going to be necessary to find a reason to keep going.
Identify what inspires you, and what provides your reason for slogging through the muck. Sometimes, that will mean connecting to a source of hope inside yourself; other times that will mean borrowing hope from outside yourself.
However you do it, fan the flame of hope because that’s where the fire of determination is born.
Remember that you are the expert in you. Personalize your recovery so that you feel able and as comfortable as possible in the discomfort of healing.
Remember that you have enormous healing potential; the goal is learning to access it. You can do this. Dig deep!
Award-Nominated Author, Speaker, Post-Trauma Coach
Radio Host, CHANGING DIRECTION
Author, Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices To Reclaim Your Identity
What struck me the most about this interview was how similar our experiences were with the (mis)diagnosis.
YOU HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF.
If you think you have PTSD, take this self test (click here). This is the beginning of your recovery, Warrior, well done. You will most likely need to do your own research in finding a QUALIFIED Trauma expert (a medical professional who not only knows what PTSD is, but also how to effectively treat the symptoms you experience) to bring the test results to and create an action plan.
Because of Michele Rosenthal, who is a class act, there are free resources that can help you on your journey to being CURED from your PTSD symptoms.
Am I cured?
Almost. I have been diligently working to heal my own PTSD for the past 2 years and the results are remarkable. I have complex PTSD.
Complex PTSD, also known as disorder of extreme stress, is found among individuals who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances, especially during childhood, such as childhood sexual abuse. Research shows that many brain and hormonal changes may occur as a result of early, prolonged trauma, and contribute to troubles with learning, memory, and regulating emotions. Combined with a disruptive, abusive home environment, these brain and hormonal changes may contribute to severe behavioral difficulties such as eating disorders, impulsivity, aggression, inappropriate sexual behavior, alcohol or drug abuse, and other self-destructive actions, as well as emotional regulation (such as intense rage, depression, or panic) and mental difficulties (such as scattered thoughts, dissociation, and amnesia). As adults, these individuals often are diagnosed with depressive disorders, personality disorders, or dissociative disorders. Treatment may progress at a much slower rate, and requires a sensitive and structured program delivered by a trauma specialist.*
Like Michele Rosenthal, it took decades for me to figure out on my own that the symptoms I was habitually experiencing were PTSD. Doctors could not help me until I figured that out on my own. Even then, doctors can do very little to help you; your recovery has to be ALL you.
Yes. Seriously. No one is coming to save you. Save yourself. Fight for yourself. Create a support team who understands (for a long time, you may be the only person on your own team and that is okay). Above all else, figure out how to LOVE YOURSELF.