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When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.
                        Friedrich Nietzsche

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
A Layman's Guide

On this page:
Your Brain Has Been

This page is under construction, but we'd like to point your attention to the books to the right. These are the sources we will be drawing from to complete this page.

What is P.T.S.D.? Post traumatic stress disorder is the common result of undergoing a traumatic event such as rape, assault, self-defense, car crashes, witnessing violent death, surviving natural disasters or abuse.

General symptoms of PTSD

  • Intrusive memories of the traumatic event
  • Bad dreams about the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks or a sense of reliving the event
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Physiological stress response to reminders of the event (pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
  • Inability to concentrate or staying focused at a task (such as your job)
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-vigilance, or being constantly “on guard”
  • An exaggerated startle response, or jumpiness

This is miles beyond just thinking about a traumatic experience, this happens involuntarily and constantly.

Avoidance strategies to keep from having to experience those symptoms

  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
  • Avoiding activities, places, or people that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached or estranged from other people
  • Feeling emotionally numb, especially toward loved ones
  • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)

In short in attempting to prevent triggering a flash back, you attempt to crawl into a box and hide.


Your Brain Has Been REWIRED!
Many people who undergo a traumatic event believe they can handle the problem themselves. Not to be the bearer of bad tidings, but if this works, it's less often because of what the person did than how our brains normally work. Conversely, if it fails, it's important to realize WHY it didn't work. And the simple fact is, it has nothing to do with how strong your will is or how competent you are.

What we'd like you to understand is that trauma physically rewires your brain!

Your brain actually changes in that certain parts get bigger, certain parts shrink and new neural pathways are established. This effects your thoughs. Think of your thoughts as a river. Now imagine that area has a massive earthquake. The shift in the terrain reroutes the river!


This happens to pretty much everyone who undergoes traumas in their lives. Now, normally and over time the river will return to some semblance of its original course. This return can happen with or without therapy. It is a natural part of our healing process. While the river's course will never be the same, it does return to something close to where it originally ran.

PTSD, however, creates a slightly different problem. The analogy we like to use will make sense if you've ever spent any time in the desert. Arroyos/gullies and washes are commonly found in this environment. While they often are dry, anytime there is rain, these arroyos become channels of raging torrents called 'flash floods.'  A wall of water, that will sweep anything in that gully along with it -- people, livestock, cars and roads carried be away.

Realize that the landscape of the desert where the monsoon is falling channels all that water into these arroyos before it has a chance to soak safely into the ground. All that water has no place to go, but rushing down that gully.

That is what your thoughts are like under the effects of PTSD. It doesn't matter how strong you think you should be, like the water, your thoughts  get ripped down this pathway. And like someone caught in a flash flood, you are pulled along helpless to control the effect. Your brain and neural pathways have become those arroyos.

The reason we use this analogy is to point out that the time to deal with PTSD is not during the middle of a flash flood. it's when it isn't raining. It is to seek outside assistance to help you fill in those arroyos and change where the water goes during those times that it isn't raining up the wash or the flash flood is raging.

The problem with having your brain rewired is that you can't run a self-diagnosis very well. And that is why you need to seek experienced professional help. PTSD is a well known problem, you aren't alone, nor do you have to handle it yourself. Because believe us, you don't want your PTSD rewired brain running the rest of your life.

Immediate Web Resources
Just to get you started.
     Mental Health Channel


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