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Post-Traumatic Stress and Common Misconceptions

By May 21, 2019 October 9th, 2019 Blog

When most people think of post-traumatic stress (PTSD), they think of a disabling disorder that predominantly affects veterans. This could not be further from the truth. Firstly, post-traumatic stress is not a disorder, but a common, normal, and often adaptive response to experiencing a traumatic or stressful event that can affect anyone.

Another common misconception of post-traumatic stress is that if a person experiences symptoms, they will eventually develop PTSD. This statement is also false. In fact, most people with post-traumatic stress (PTS) do not develop PTSD. An individual can develop PTSD without first having PTS. Since PTS is not a disorder, it requires no medical intervention, unless symptoms are severe, or a person feels they would personally benefit from therapy.

These misconceptions can be very detrimental to society as they can lead to depression, anxiety, and a slew of other mental health issues on top of the symptoms of PTS. The sooner  PTS is normalized, the sooner everyone can learn to heal as a society.

PTS Affects More than Just Veterans

When people think of PTS, the first thing that pops into their mind is a war veteran. PTS can happen to anyone regardless of age or gender.

There are several types of events that can lead to PTS. These events include:

●      Physical or sexual assault

●      Exposure to traumatic events such as natural disasters or mass shootings

●      Childbirth experiences such as losing a baby

●      Torture

●      Serious accidents

●      Abuse, including childhood or domestic violence

●      Serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care

●      War and conflict

Any event that is stressful, disturbing, and/or traumatic can result in PTS. It is important to know that veterans are far from being the only ones affected. There is no argument that trauma among the veteran population is a real issue, but the percentage of civilians also suffering from trauma-related symptoms is staggering. It is important for individuals, who begin experiencing PTS symptoms after a traumatic event, to realize that what they are experiencing is a perfectly normal response. However, for one to know they are experiencing PTS, it is important to know and understand its symptoms.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress?

Post-traumatic stress (PTS) is a completely common and normal response to experiencing a traumatic, disturbing and/or stressful event. Most people who experience a traumatic event will show, at the very least, a few signs of PTS. This is because the brain is built to activate the fight-or-flight response, which tells the body to breathe faster, tense the muscles and pump more blood when under extreme stress. This fight-or-flight response is a normal reflex during and even after a traumatic event. This is one of the reasons why PTS is considered a normal symptom and not a mental illness; it is not long-lasting. Other symptoms of PTS include avoidance of anything that reminds an individual of their traumatic event, feelings of fear and nervousness, nightmares, and shaky hands.

Although these symptoms can be intense, symptoms of PTS typically diminish a few days after the traumatic event. Since PTS is not a disorder, treatment is not required; the symptoms of PTS usually fade away on their own.

How is PTS Different from PTSD? 

As mentioned, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a disorder while PTS are just temporary symptoms. For more clarification, here are the symptoms associated with PTSD:

●      Intrusive thoughts. These are typically characterized as repeated, involuntary memories, flashbacks, or distressing dreams. They can be so vivid that people will feel like they are actually reliving their traumatic experiences.

●      Avoidance. People will avoid anything that reminds them of their trauma, including people, objects, places, situations, and activities. They may also resist talking about it altogether.

●      Negative feelings and thoughts. People may experience feelings of horror, fear, anger, guilt, and shame. These thoughts and feelings can result in the loss of interest in activities they once liked to do. Feelings of detachment or estrangement from the world around them are also results of these thoughts.

●      Changes in personality. PTSD may cause one to become irritable and have angry outbursts or begin behaving recklessly, and being self-destructive. Other changes include being easily startled, difficulty concentrating, and abnormal sleeping patterns.

In order for a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms listed must last for at least one month. Most people will develop symptoms within the first three months of the trauma, but symptoms can also appear later in life. PTS, on the other hand, happens instantaneously and lasts for less than a month. Also, PTS symptoms are more commonly characterized as the body’s reaction to trauma (fight-or flight-response). Sometimes, people who experience PTS will also end up developing PTSD, but this is not always the case. People may only experience PTS and never develop PTSD, while some may never experience PTS and only PTSD; some may not experience either PTS or PTSD.

Importance of Early Intervention and Treatment

Early intervention and treatment for those suffering from PTS and PTSD is crucial to healing emotionally. Fortunately, there are treatments available, such as Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART), to help a person return to their daily life.

Intervene as soon as possible on behalf of someone suffering from PTS. Uncharacteristic behavior can become increasingly destructive. Over time, buried and suppressed memories become more and more powerful. 

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress and similar mental health issues. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages is the speed at which ART is able to bring relief. Generally, only one to five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive psychological treatment. 

Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the traumatic memories that are preventing an individual from enjoying the full life they deserve. The therapy works equally well on anyone suffering from trauma, regardless of the type of trauma experienced. Trauma, at the end of the day, is still trauma.

Regardless of how bad things may be, there is hope, and there is always someone available to help a person get through difficult times. Contact ART International to learn more about the therapy or find a therapist.