Friday, September 30, 2022

High-Functioning People with PTSD

Unfortunately, there are many rumors about PTSD that are NOT true, and here is one we hear often: "People who have a history of trauma cannot be high-functioning members of society." Let's talk about why this is a load of bull:

When we define trauma and what someone with a trauma history looks like, we often miss out on seeing the truth of their personal history. We expect to see someone showing some form of self-destructive behavior in an attempt to self-sooth. But that is not always the case. 

Trauma is often thought of as an isolated event: a car crash, sexual assault, or maybe something happening during military service. While singular events can be traumatic, we’re ignoring a whole host of ongoing situations and relational traumas a person can experience. Many of which are outlined in Acknowledge and Heal: A Women-Focused Guide To Understanding PTSD 

When a person is exposed to ongoing trauma, their mind tries to adapt. It’s the brain’s job to keep us alive, so in situations where we cannot escape our trauma, the brain switches from fight or flight, or to a more adaptive "tend and befriend" mode, allowing us to remain as safe as possible in the ongoing traumatic situation. 

In short, we develop coping mechanisms to keep everything peaceful. And, as long as things are relatively calm in our lives, we appear “normal.” 

In some cases, our focus is shifted outward, toward the things we can control: grades, promotions, seeking independence, and financial security. Many trauma survivors become fiercely independent because of the betrayal of the trauma they experienced left them knowing the only person they could rely on was themselves (e.g. a former child of abusive or neglectful parents). To a spectator, these individuals seem like they have it all together. They couldn’t possibly be struggling with PTSD, right? 

Wrong. 

If they have had to lean on self-sufficiency for survival, it is likely that by the time they desperately need help, they have perfected their mask of indifference and fortified their emotional barriers to the point that they have become reflexes. No longer aware of the walls they throw up, these people can be very difficult to diagnose. 

Either way the pendulum swings, self-destructive or super high-functioning, the person who has experienced trauma (singular or ongoing) is attempting to compensate for it. And that may work for them for many years, until it doesn’t. 

The bottom line is that being outwardly high-functioning and needing trauma recovery work are not mutually exclusive. Just because someone appears to be high functioning, it doesn’t mean they don’t suffer.

What is your experience with high-functioning PTSD? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

Friday, September 23, 2022

Rumors that are NOT True: People with PTSD are “damaged goods”


Rumors that are NOT True:

People who develop PTSD are “not resilient”/are “damaged goods”

There are a lot of rumors that come with PTSD, unfortunately, and this is one of them. This is the idea that someone “gets” PTSD because they are not resilient enough, or because they already experienced trauma, addiction, etc. and are “damaged goods.” This rumor equates PTSD to the flu and opines that PTSD attacks those with compromised mental immune systems.   

It is fantasy to believe that a happy childhood will inoculate us from future trauma. It won’t! Trauma is an individual experience. What makes something traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another, depending on their relative ability to deal with it. 

There is no quick “bounce back” for rape, war, or a serious accident, and we would appreciate it if people would stop pretending there was. Moreover, this rumor can have unintended consequences: 

If people in need of help feel they will be labeled as “weak” or “damaged,” then they will be less likely to seek the help they need.   

Not seeking help can have disastrous effects. These statistics and these statistics also are based on the U.S. population:

·         About 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the population) will develop PTSD at some point during their life

·         About 8 of every 100 women (or 8%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%)

·         Among people who have had a diagnosis of PTSD in their lifetime, approximately 27% have also attempted suicide

·         Women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are nearly seven times more likely than other women to die by suicide

·         The average time between PTSD diagnosis and suicide was less than two and a half years 

The bottom line is that PTSD symptoms are hard enough without blaming a survivor; this is cruel and unnecessary.

What rumors about PTSD have affected you? How did you overcome them? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

Friday, September 16, 2022

Compassion Fatigue


Compassion Fatigue
was coined by Charles Figley in the 1980s and refers to a set of negative psychological symptoms that caregivers experience in the course of their work while being exposed to direct traumatic events or through secondary trauma. 

Compassion fatigue is an erosive process, not attributed to a single exposure to trauma. It is the result of ongoing, repeated exposure to traumatic situations, whether direct or indirect. Over time, the act of providing care in the context of human suffering and trauma wears down the individual's psychological resilience, leaving the care worker in a combined state of burnout that leads to more serious mental health conditions such PTSD, anxiety or depression. 

Essentially, the continuous exposure to the trauma of others may lead care work professionals to manifest the same or similar symptoms as the trauma survivors they have helped. 

This places many occupations such as law enforcement, first responders, healthcare professionals, teachers, and community service workers right in the crosshairs if they have the risk factors to be affected by it. Between 40% and 85% of helping professionals develop vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and/or high rates of traumatic symptoms, according to compassion fatigue expert Francoise Mathieu. 

During a TED Talk in 2017, Patricia Smith, the founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness project, had this to say,

“Caregivers are not good at asking for help. Asking for help is hard, no matter who you are. For nurses, doctors, teachers and more, the idea of leaving work can seem like an impossibility. You may feel guilty or that you are abandoning your patients or students. But if you are struggling with drug or alcohol use, you need help too. Your clients, patients and students will be happy for you.” 

With that in mind, try to be aware of signs of compassion fatigue and seek help. 

How do you handle compassion fatigue? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The 11th: Buddy Check Day


 The 11th day of each month is Buddy Check Day reminding us to check in with other veterans. By getting in touch with others, we can enjoy camaraderie, check on each other’s well-being, and maybe even connect another veteran with a service they can use.

Buddy Check can be as simple as picking up the phone, talking, texting, or visiting.

Buddy Check Day is a great opportunity for veterans to connect with each other, and for other community members to reach out and connect with veterans.

It promotes camaraderie and connectedness. It also serves as an opportunity to educate folks on issues that are relevant to veterans across Texas and to educate folks on the services that are available to veterans.

We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

Friday, September 9, 2022

Burnout and PTSD


As of this writing, burnout is not listed as a diagnosis in DSM-5. That said, we must understand that burnout is much more complicated than ordinary fatigue. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive prolonged stress. Being burned out is feeling empty, mentally exhausted, lacking motivation, with no resources left to draw on. People experiencing burnout often cannot see a way to change their situation. If not addressed and treated, burnout can lead to a full on mental health crisis. 

Burnout is not caused by stress alone. Here are some of the other factors that can lead to burnout.

·         Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.

·         Lack of recognition or reward for good work.

·         Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.

·         Working too much, without enough time for socializing or relaxing.

·         Lack of close, supportive relationships.

·         Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others.

·         The need to be in control. A reluctance to delegate to others. (Type A personality)

·         Feeling undervalued or appreciated. 

Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North have outlined the phases of this stress syndrome:

·         Excessive Drive/Ambition

·         Too much ambition can lead to burnout. Ambition pushes a person to work harder.

·         Neglecting Needs

·         Begin to sacrifice self-care like sleep, exercise, and eating well.

·         Displacement Of Conflict

·         Blaming the boss, the demands of the job, or colleagues for personal troubles.

·         No Time For Non-Work-Related Needs

·         Begin to withdraw from family and friends.

·         Denial

·         Impatience with other, seeing them as incompetent, lazy, or overbearing.

·         Withdrawal

·         Further pulling away from family and friends. Social invitations to parties, movies, and dinner dates start to feel burdensome.

·         Behavioral Changes

·         Those on the road to burnout may become more aggressive and snap at loved ones for no reason.

·         Depersonalization

·         Feeling detached from life and ability to it.

·         Inner Emptiness Or Anxiety

·         Potential to turn to thrill seeking behaviors to cope with empty feelings. Potential for substance use, gambling, or over eating.

·         Depression

·         Life loses its meaning. Extreme hopelessness.

·         Mental Or Physical Collapse

·         Mental health or medical attention may be necessary.

 Ask yourself these four questions to determine if you are suffering from burnout.

1.      How often are you tired and lacking energy to go to work in the morning?

2.      How often do you feel physically drained, like your batteries are dead?

3.      How often is your thinking process sluggish or your concentration impaired?

4.      How often do you feel emotionally detached from co-workers (or customers) and unable to be sensitive to their needs?

THE BOTTOM LINE: There is a significant association between PTSD and burnout, particularly the depressive component. While burnout is not currently recognized by the DSM-5, it is a serious condition that makes a person less resilient to handling additional traumas (as already described in this chapter).

How do you handle burnout? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Toxic Positivity


Toxic Positivity is a form of invalidation. Instead of facing difficult emotions, toxic positivity rejects or ignores the negative in favor of a cheerful, often falsely positive, fa├žade.

This can come in the form of burying one’s own feelings and avoiding anything negative, or it can come as a response to expressing those negative feelings with another person. 

Having a positive outlook on life is good for your mental well-being. We’re not denying that. However, life is not always positive. We all deal with painful emotions and experiences. Negative feelings are critical to growth. We need to experience a little negativity (or challenges) in order to live a happy life. 

There's nothing wrong with looking on the bright side or trying to remain positive when times get tough, but there comes a point where denying feelings and emotions (or the feelings and emotions of others) becomes toxic. 

Ignoring, invalidating, or otherwise pushing away difficult emotions, such as sadness or fear, and forcing ourselves or others to be positive can be harmful to our mental well-being and our relationships. Practicing false cheerfulness keeps us from addressing our feelings, and the feelings of others, leaving that negativity to fester. 

Toxic positivity can cause serious harm to people who are going through difficult times. Rather than being able to share their troubles and gain much needed support, the invalidation of toxic positivity leaves these people feeling dismissed and ignored. This compounds the problems they are already dealing with. 

It's shaming: Toxic positivity tells people that the emotions they are feeling are unacceptable.

·         It causes guilt. It sends a message that if a person can’t feel positive, even in the face of tragedy, that they are doing something wrong.

·         It avoids empathy. Toxic positivity allows people to sidestep emotional situations that might make them feel uncomfortable. This becomes a societal pattern. When we feel difficult emotions, we then discount, dismiss, and deny them for ourselves and others.

·         It prevents growth. Dismissing and denying negative feelings also prevents us from facing those challenging feelings which, if worked through, could lead to growth and deeper insight.

Common examples: 

·         Feigning Gratitude. Focusing on gratitude as a way to bypass emotions. Gratitude is not a bad thing, but it can be when you're using it to invalidate yourself.

Look on the bright side.

Count your blessings. 

·         Comparing. Just because someone else is seemingly handling a tough time “better” than you, that's no reason to start comparing. Everyone handles things in their own way.

You think you have it rough?

It could be worse.

If I can do it, so can you.

 ·         Dismissing Difficult Emotions. When difficult emotions arise, you completely push them down, insisting you must stay positive. It’s a form of gaslighting.

Everything happens for a reason.

Positive Vibes Only.

Failure is not an option.

Don’t worry, be happy! 

A toxic positive response, rather than an empathetic one, creates a disconnect in a person’s ability to rely on their social support structure. 

THE BOTTOM LINE: People going through trauma don’t need to be told to stay positive, they need empathy. When someone is suffering, they need to know that their emotions are valid, and they can find relief and love in their friends and family. Negative emotions need to be validated, explored, and processed.

Have you experienced positivity? How did you address it? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!


*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD