In the First World War, there was an affliction that rendered many soldiers on all sides of that conflict incredibly panicked, afraid, and unable to use reason. Many commanders, having seen it for the first time, didn’t know what to do, and thought it was simply cowardice. Some even put their own soldiers to death for suffering from it. In World War II, more was understood, and so they upgraded the phrase to combat stress reaction, or more commonly known: combat fatigue. It’s certainly more accurate, but still doesn’t quite capture exactly what soldiers experience. Finally, in the 70s, post-traumatic stress disorder as a term became more widespread as a label for what was happening. And in 1980, was officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
Because this is an affliction that affects soldiers on a grand scale - a soldier’s risk of developing ptsd is doubled on a battlefield- most believe that only soldiers are the only ones affected by it. Not true. Anyone is susceptible to developing PTSD, and it depends on the acuteness of the incident that triggers it in the first place, along with a number of other factors.
But what is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by an extremely traumatic event (or series of events) in a person’s life: war or combat, violent attacks, sexual abuse, traffic accidents, natural disasters, and even the loss of a loved one. In fact, a third of people who suffered through severe or extreme trauma develop PTSD. It’s developed almost like a mental survival mechanism - in order for the people who suffered through a traumatic experience, their minds often react instinctively for “protection”. Though, ultimately, it’s far more damaging than it is helpful.
A long time ago, one of my clients had a friend who was attacked and raped by someone she thought was a friend, though she told no-one about the attack. Many years after, my client and her friend were out shopping and drinking coffee when the friend suddenly withdrew from her, crying as she fled. It turned out that she spotted her attacker across the street, was hit by a wave of fear, and ran. My client had no idea what to do or how to react. No-one knew that she had suffered a deep trauma from being raped, and had developed PTSD in the months and years since.
There are too many victims just like my client’s friend. They know they’re traumatized, but don’t realize just how deeply they were hurting, or what to do to start the healing process. The unfortunate thing is that the longer these poor folk go without treatment, the deeper they get stuck, and the harder it becomes to heal them.
One of the only ways to help cope with trauma that strong and debilitating is simply through counseling and therapy. While there are medications that can help, they will never cure any affliction by themselves. They’re there to help potentially supplement any ongoing therapy, and should only be used under the guidance of a professional.
Healing post traumatic stress disorder takes guidance, and slow, methodical, safe methods of discourse and recalling of memories to truly bring anyone suffering from it back to normalcy. But keep in mind that therapy could take years, and even longer depending on how deep the trauma is, or how long they’ve been suffering from it.
There is no such thing as healing trauma quickly, unfortunately. But a great step forward for any victim is realizing they have it, and reaching out to get help.