Emotions are a gift of nature to us – they keep us human. Feelings of joy and sorrow are all natural reactions to situations in life. Interestingly enough, the same situation in life could be interpreted as joy for one person and sorrow for another. It depends on how we perceive as individuals perceive life. Two boxers knocking the living daylights out of each other in the ring obviously could not be considered as having a joyful time and yet the crowd might be thoroughly enjoying the exchange of blows. The good thing about emotions is that they are more temporary in nature – over time images of the situation could fade away from memory. However some emotions are so strong that they seem to remain indelible in our memory. Memories of such longer lasting emotions based on situations that are negative in nature and those that lead to extreme psychological stress when the conscious mind plays them back, are often classified as psychological trauma.
What’s On Your Mind?
Psychological trauma could be as recent as an experience in adulthood or something as distant as early childhood. However that experience is so severe that anytime the mind wanders over to replay that experience from memory, it literally consumes you in sheer grief.
Children growing up in unhealthy, depressing conditions or in families that indulge in domestic violence or abusive behavior turn out to be prime candidates for developing post traumatic stress disorders pretty early in life. The trauma of childhood manifests itself in the person’s character, thought process and behavior patterns. I’ve known women who have developed gamophobia (fear of marriage) because they came from broken homes and had witnessed bitterness in relationships between the birth parents. Those memories became the source for trauma and manifested themselves as a phobia for the woman, which in turn shaped her character and attitude towards men.
In the recent past there was an uproar in the community and news media about a video being published in Youtube® where a toddler was being taught how to smoke pot in his own home. I won’t give you any credits for guessing how traumatic that experience could have been for the toddler, when every rational and mature person viewing it were disturbed by the graphic scenes. Where do you think the toddler will end up in life? All we can do is wish him luck.
Abusive supervisors at work could lead to psychological trauma for employees and literally destroy their confidence to perform or even go back to work. Sexual abuse is a common cause for women developing psychological trauma .Recent news about the polygamist who literally controlled the lives of several women disturbed viewers. Can you imagine the trauma that those women and their children went through and will carry on for the rest of their mortal life?
The worst part about traumatic experiences is that they are long lasting in memory and affects the future life – hence the term post traumatic stress disorder. In other words the events of a few moments manifest themselves as trauma for months and even years to come, leading to incessant feelings of anxiety, phobias, depression and even panic attacks. These lead to inhibitions, which in turn makes PTSD treatments a challenge to be effective let alone make any progress with the patient on stress and anxiety reduction.
In the example of the women with gamophobia, the post traumatic stress disorder could manifest itself as unreasonable hatred and distrust for men, jealousy for happy couples, depression, homosexuality and even alcoholism and drug abuse. So much so that such women may not feel comfortable to discuss the problem with a male psychotherapist.
Marines coming back from the war are prime candidates for post traumatic stress disorders. It does not matter how well you can train them, the gory scenes of war in real life and in real time can break the toughest of minds. It is one thing watching a video and an entirely different thing participating in the action. When we civilians watch news media coverage on television, we tend to ignore the events, but those brave soldiers that keep us safe at home don’t have that luxury of ignoring reality. Pause for a moment to imagine how stressful and how traumatic it can be to see your brother or your sister or your close friends’ life suddenly get extinguished in battle. The marines go through this stress and carry these traumas every day of their life. When they return the shock of their experiences could make them develop post traumatic stress disorder. Sole survivors of attacks where everybody in his unit lost their lives except himself often wonder what it was that spared his life. That is even more traumatic.
Challenges in PTSD Treatments
There is no shortage of examples of traumatic experiences and every situation is different. However the core theme for all cases psychological trauma is inhibitive behavior, anxiety and panic if the patient is even proposed with the idea of being exposed to a similar event even in virtual re-enactment mode. However the key to an effective treatment lies exactly in the patient willing to open up and share the experience with a qualified mental health professional. This becomes a major challenge for the psychotherapist to suggest any effective remedies for patients with post traumatic stress disorders.
In the next article I will discuss some of the more effective techniques for PTSD treatments.
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