Most of us have built our lives around the belief that we will be relatively safe, on September 11, 2001, that belief was shaken. The terrorist attack on the United States Of America, has destroyed feelings of safety for many. Situations such as this are outside the realm of ordinary experience. Catastrophic experiences are not limited to war and natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, flooding, etc.) but also include rape, physical or sexual abuse, fires, auto accidents, school shootings, plane crashes, hostage situations, and exposure to other violence such as car-jacking, mugging, and military combat. It is not only the victims of these events, but also witnesses, families of victims and helping professionals who can develop severe syptoms of stress, which can potentially become long-lasting.
The anxiety experienced during or immediately after a catastrophic event is called traumatic stress. When symptoms endure several months after the incident, it is called post-traumatic stress. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the term used by mental health professionals to characterize people who have endured highly stressful and frightening experiences and who are having distress caused by memories of that event.
Getting Help For PTSD
It is important to remember that traumatic stress is a normal reaction to very abnormal circumstances, and PTSD is just an extention of that reaction. There is no shame in experiencing symptoms, nor is having symptoms a sign of weakness.
PTSD is very treatable, especially if it is caught early. The idea behind the treatment is to process the traumatic event, as well as manage the symptoms. A qualified Therapist can help the person with PTSD to find the words to talk about the incident and to understand the feelings that accompany the experience, rather than to avoid things associated with the trauma. Though it might seem natural to want to avoid painful memories, it is important to acknowledge the memories, feel the emotions and work at processing them. When this happens, the trauma no longer controls the person. The person is now in control of the memory of the trauma to the extent that she or he can approach it with flexibility and objectivity.
Statistics About PTSD
The majority of people who are exposed to extreme stress are able to process their way through their reactions and never develop PTSD.
- An estimated 70 percent of people will be exposed to a traumatic event in their lifetime.
- Of those people, 20 percent will go on to develop PTSD.
- Women are about twice as likely to develop PTSD as men, because women are more likely to experience interpersonal violence, including rape and physical beatings.
- Rape is a leading cause of PTSD.
- Victims of domestic violence and childhood abuse are at high risk for PTSD.
- Approximately 8 percent of the population will develop PTSD during their lifetime.
Self-Help Tips For Dealing With Loss
The goal of the person dealing with loss is to move through the stages of the loss process, to acknowledge the impact of the loss, learn from it, and to eventually reach closure so that in the future life can be experienced more fully. Many people seek the help of a qualified counselor who may be better prepared than most to empathize and guide the process in a productive way.
- Submit to the loss in order to get though it. Accept the loss as an important and necessary part of your life experience.
- Realize that intense feelings are normal and expected. Expect losses to uncover intense feelings, this is especially true if a person has not achieved closure on past losses. When a person can process the loss productively, these feelings, over time will pass.
- Take care of your health. While adjusting to losses, people are more prone to letting themselves go, opening the door to other health problems and even accidents. Be sure to get enough sleep, exercise, and maintain a nutritious diet. Avoid alcohol and drugs during time of adjusting to loss. They may provide temporary relief, but can become another problem, and abusing substances will stall the loss process and make the recovery period longer.