Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Making Sense of the Present

By: Emily Mulhaul

As an outsider, sometimes it’s difficult to understand what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is and who gets to experience it and who doesn’t. To put simply, although we take in life’s moments with others around us, the emotional process is an individual experience, therefore anyone and everyone can at some point in their life experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder even if others around them are not experiencing it. The variation in emotional experiences is so fascinating that it is the primary interest of social psychologists who study the way we process, store, and apply information to diverse situations. That being said, multiple individuals can be in the same place, at the same time, identifying the same series of events, but will interpret the situation completely differently. Individual interpretations may fall anywhere under the seven universal facial emotions noted by the American Psychological Association (APA): disgust, anger, fear, joy, happiness, surprise, and contempt. Diversity in emotional reactions to situations is normal, but there are times where it becomes an area of concern. For example, imagine it’s around the fourth of July, you’re at the beach and unexpectedly fireworks commence. One individual (twelve year old) may express the utmost joy, surprise, happiness or some combination of the three, whilst another individual (war veteran) darts to hide behind a bush in a trembling state, fearing for his life. The discrepancy between the reactions of these two individuals, the twelve year old kid and the war veteran, are not reactions one must brush off as varying personalities. Due to the war veteran’s time spent at war, he may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events. His reaction (anxiety) may have been triggered by an association of the loud bang of the fireworks with that of a loud bang of a gunshot (traumatic event) he heard in the past.

Although the presence of PTSD in war veterans is the most commonly talked about, it is one form of PTSD, not the only. Other instances that have concluded with the diagnosis of PTSD include individuals who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, car accidents, crime, natural disasters, bullying, breakups, loss of a loved one, etc. Considering the following experiences do not necessarily mean that PTSD will be present, the APA highlights some recognizable signs in either yourself or others who may be at risk or experiencing PTSD: “reliving the event via intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares; avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma; and have anxious feelings they didn’t have before.” If these signs sound familiar, it is to the benefit of the individual to seek therapy with a licensed professional because there is hope to diminish negative emotions for a resurgence of positive emotions!

If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, social workers, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling are here to help. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.

Sources:

http://apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx http://www.apa.org/topics/ptsd/index.aspx

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