Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Most Misunderstood Symptom of PTSD

The Most Misunderstood Symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

Living the lifestyle of an addict is not an ideal situation.  It can be very dangerous.  

Because of this, I experienced many traumatic events that caused some pretty severe PTSD symptoms.  If anyone has ever experienced extreme emotional symptoms from trauma, they know how challenging life can become when trying to cope.  The frightening experiences I had literally changed the world I live in.  While I don't currently live in continuing danger as I did before, my brain has yet to accept the fact that I am safe.  I experience many of the common symptoms of PTSD, such as, strong feelings of guilt, sleep disturbances, and feelings of worthlessness.  I go into fight or flight mode many times during the day and I still get a couple dozen flashbacks during my day.  Flashbacks that bring me right back into a traumatic event and my body reacts as though I am experiencing it in the moment.  

One of the most challenging symptoms I experience is a feeling that there is imminent danger when there is not.  My brain is constantly looking for the threat.  Its as though is is on a mission to sort out where the danger is, almost continually.  As you can imagine it can be very exhausting.  I use techniques to help remind myself I am not in danger, but my brain is "trained" to seek out the threat to protect me.  

As I got sober and started really feelings my feelings, I recognized that this was happening and wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.  How frustrating!  To make matters worse, I began to judge myself for  it by calling myself paranoid.  I mean really, how many people feel the fight or flight response while making themselves dinner on a normal evening at home?  I felt so paranoid!!  Turns out I am not paranoid at all, I am hyper-vigilant.



Hyper Vigilance VS Paranoia:

There is a major difference between paranoia which is a mental illness and hyper vigilance which is caused by a psychological injury. (such as PTSD)

Paranoia:


Is an illness in the brain
Does not get better on its own
Is not recognized by the person experiencing it
Sometimes responds to drug treatment
Is Convinced of their plausibility

Hyper-Vigilance:


Is a response to trauma
Does (albeit SLOWLY) get better on its own
Will recognize it but use the incorrect term of "paranoia" to describe their experience
Drugs have little effect or make it worse by interfering with the body's own healing process
Is convinced of their worthlessness

hyper vigilance, paranoia, paranoid thoughts, feelings, emotions, trauma, ptsd, coping with trauma, how to cope with trauma, help with trauma

Dealing with these symptoms are hard enough without putting incorrect labels such as "paranoid" on ourselves.  We aren't paranoid. We are survivors and we have brains that helped us cope at the time we survived our trauma and those same AMAZING brains are helping us to survive today.  Our brain chemistry will heal over time, we can and will learn a new way to navigate the world.  In the meantime, understanding our symptoms and not judging ourselves is so very important!


The symptoms of PTSD are very serious and are difficult to manage.  If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing symptoms please seek out professional help.  Please see below for some resources on finding help.



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National Center for Victims of Crime

800-FYI-CALL (800-394-2255)
The National Center for Victims of Crime provides information, education, and referrals to local resources across the country. The hotline is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm and is offered in numerous languages.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233) and 800-787-3224 (TDD)
The mission of the National Domestic Violence Hotline is to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information, and referrals for individuals experiencing domestic violence. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, and assistance is offered in numerous languages.

Mental Health America

800-969-6MHA (6642)
The mission of MHA is to promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation. MHA offers information and resources on numerous mental health topics.

National Organization for Victim Assistance

800-TRY-NOVA (800-879-6682)
NOVA's mission is to promote rights and services for victims of crime and crisis. The hotline provides information and referrals and is available 24 hours a day.


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