If Your Body Can’t Move Past the Traumatic Experience, You Get Stuck in Fight, Flight, or Freeze and Symptoms Develop.
Threatening events cause reactions in the body to prepare you to fight to protect yourself or flee, including heightened awareness, increased heart rate, fear, or anger. Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when these natural and largely instinctual reactions fail to successfully avoid the threat, or there is no safe place or person to help the survivor unwind the high anxiety afterwards.
Signs And Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can show up immediately following a traumatic event, or can develop slowly of the course of weeks, months, or even years following the event. Sometimes the symptoms become a consistent fact of life for the afflicted. Other times the symptoms seem to come and go with no apparent rhyme or reason, though usually they are triggered completely unconsciously by something in the person’s life connected to the earlier threat.
For example, a female client had strong feelings of both attraction and repulsion to men with beards. After Somatic Experiencing work, she realized a connection with a childhood abuse experience by a man with facial hair. After that, she came to feel neutral around men with beards.
Typically, the symptoms of PTSD fall into three categories:
My lower back was in constant pain for over five years. Since those three phone sessions with you, to this day, I have little to no pain.
— A.J., 24 year old salesman
Highly traumatic events cause PTSD when they intrude into your everyday life in the form of flashbacks, nightmares or intense memories of the event. Sufferers may experience:
- Frequent nightmares — occasionally these nightmares are a re-living of the original event, but often they have no direct resemblance.
- Flashbacks — during flashbacks, you may actually feel the event again, or believe that it is occurring again.
- Inability to stop thoughts about the traumatic event.
- Intense physical responses to memories of the event — these may include nausea, increased heart rate, sweating, tensing muscles and feelings of intense distress.
- Unconscious and unintentional repetition of traumatic life patterns, such as choosing abusive mates or placing oneself in dangerous situations.
- Strong emotions that you are unable to control (i.e. anger or sadness)
Since the past trauma was so overwhelming, sufferers of PTSD unconsciously go to great lengths to avoid re-experiencing those overwhelming feelings.Â Avoidance symptoms of PTSD include:
- Avoiding reminders of the event (the places, people, situations, sounds, or smells that bring back the original feelings)
- An inability to remember certain parts of the event or the whole event
- A tendency to minimize the importance of the event(s) in ones life or to be blind to the connection between the event and the current symptoms
- General loss of interest in life and the people around you…apathy, lack of creative fire or creative drive
- Emotional numbness, depression, or low energy, sometimes severe enough to cause inclinations to suicide or other self-harm
- Attempts to self-medicate often resulting in substance abuse or other addictions
- Lack of interest in the future and a belief that things will not get better with time
- Difficulty trusting others and/or building friendships and healthy intimate relationships
When you sense a serious threat, there is a heightened awareness of your surroundings and a physical readiness to act. This can become PTSD when the nervous system is so overwhelmed it cannot return to normal after the threat subsides. Hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Frequent digestive problems associated with stress
- Gland or organ weakness from stess over a prolonged time
- Muscular or joint pain from chronically held muscle tension
- Obsessive worry, guilt, shame, or self-hatred
- Obsessive thinking, often attempting to work out solutions to problems, real or imagined
- Frequent and uncontrollable anger, reacting out of proportion to the current circumstances
- Hyper-vigilance of your surroundings, restlessness, an inability to relax
- Panic or anxiety attacks
- Phobias, i.e. excessive fear response usually to harmless things
- Excessive startle response to some event, like an unexpected noise
Many experts and agencies suggest that more than 70% of all diseases are caused or contributed to by stress. For example, the Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy states that, “Ninety percent of disease is caused or complicated by stress.” Since PTSD is chronic stress, the list of potential symptoms of PTSD is actually far longer than could be listed here.
Releasing The Past — PTSD, Trauma, & Loss Therapy
Somatic Experiencing Sessions With Paul Chubbuck
970-493-2958 — 1010 Morgan Street — Fort Collins, Colorado 80524