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PTSD and Childhood Trauma

by Alice Ghosh

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs following a stressful experience or on witnessing a traumatic event in a person’s life. These are not rare. Childhood traumas have a larger impact on adulthood behaviors without even realizing it.

A traumatic event refers to certain life-threatening incidents like violence, domestic and sexual abuse, physical or verbal attacks, or some unexpected events such as accidents, natural disasters, death of a relative, etc.

PTSD is common among combat veterans with horrific war experiences and in people with neglected or abused childhood.

Trauma may not always be an objective one but can be a subjective emotional experience in a person. Usually occurs when it threatens the sense of security or trust.

The feeling of distress, loneliness, fear, helplessness, guilt, shame, or anger are all normal when someone goes through a trauma. It may take a few days or weeks to get better. But when it persists and lasts more than a couple of months, it may be considered as PTSD.

Childhood trauma is a heartbreaking problem. As a child, we may not be aware of our condition and when grown up, the incidents may be completely forgotten. But our brain stores all these and shows the aftereffects when triggered, with us not even realizing it.

Common childhood incidents are physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect, misuse, witnessing violence or parental separation.

Emotional neglect is a failure in terms of parenting; it may not be intentional but still can have long term effects in the individual. Not giving importance to your child’s emotions may end up the way that they don’t give importance to themselves.

In adulthood they may show the feeling of guilt or personally flawed, emptiness, shame, depression, having poor self-discipline, aggressive behavior or trust issues.

The symptoms of PTSD are behavioral and in severe cases, even physical. Headache, stomach pain, indigestion, anorexia, shivering, etc can be experienced on reminding of the incidents or in similar situations.

Dealing with the human mind is difficult. Most effective treatment is always when the patients help themselves. They should learn to own their emotions and take responsibility for their actions. That doesn’t mean it’s their fault. Acceptance of oneself is the best medicine for the mind.

When we accept it we get the courage to face our problems head-on.

The medical treatments for PTSD are:

  • Systemic Desensitization and Exposure therapy: The patients are slowly exposed to the particular uncomfortable situations they react to. They then address their physical reactions and also their thoughts of running away. They face it themselves and work on training their mind. This therapy is possible only when patients are ready to accept their condition.
  • Group therapy: Although talking to close friends and relatives are a great weapon in psychology, the therapy is more effective when patients open up to people going through the same. This makes them less lonely and more connected.
  • Anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants: Taking pills can slow down physical stress and keep calm, but they may end up being addictive.

Making sure that we are there for them and talking about the trauma can help the patients to slowly relieve their pain. People may not be ready to talk but we should always be ready to listen when they do. Fight these pains together with your loved ones and come out strong together!

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