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Will I Have To Deal With PTSD For The Rest Of My Life?

Question:

I have Complex PTSD and depression. I have made a good deal of progress and my symptoms are way down. My therapist and psychiatrist tell me that this is a chronic situation and that I will be seeing the psychiatrist for a long time to come. This is very distressing to me that I will be stuck with this label for life. Is it realistic to totally get over one’s PTSD? I have been told that it is time for me to start accepting this as a long-term chronic situation and that is very hard for me to do. My symptoms have waxed and waned for quite awhile. They want me to go to a DBT group to learn coping strategies.

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Answer:

Your therapists have been giving you good counsel, I believe, but you may be reading it more negatively than you might. PTSD is, by definition, a chronic condition. PTSD is only diagnosed when symptoms including avoidance, hyper-arousal and intrusive memories are present at least six months after exposure to some traumatic event. Pointing out that PTSD is chronic doesn’t mean that people cannot – to one degree or another – recover from this condition. A full PTSD ‘cure’ is probably not possible. Memories enter into our heads in a one-way fashion. Once in, they stay and we cannot remove them. So the trauma you’ve experienced will be with you for life. On the other hand, your ability to process and tolerate that this trauma occurred can be improved, and with that improvement may come substantial lessening of your symptoms. The degree of symptom lessening tends to be associated with several factors including the severity of the experienced trauma, whether or not dissociation occurred or is used as a coping mechanism, and the type of supports that are available to the PTSD patient.

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p> PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder. In general, all anxiety disorders are maintained by avoidance (e.g., an anxious person doesn’t learn that something they fear is not actually dangerous because he/she never hangs around long enough to realize this fact). To ‘recover’ from an anxiety disorder, one must generally learn (emotionally AND intellectually) that something they fear is not actually dangerous. In PTSD, the trauma memory is so strong and so overwhelming that this learning is especially difficult to master. In a behavioral therapy situation, this critical emotional learning is helped along through a series of gradual exposures to real or imagined situations – each progressively more feared. Because these exposures are gradual and progress from easy-to-tolerate to hard-to-tolerate, the patient is able to gradually gain the emotional and intellectual knowledge that what they fear is not really dangerous. This is a difficult trick to accomplish in PTSD situations, as traumatic memories are all too easily brought back and appear in their full overwhelming glory. Great care must be taken in treating PTSD to make sure that graduated exposures to trauma-like situations are experienced as within the realm of safety. I give this detail to suggest why PTSD is difficult to treat, and also to suggest that it is possible.

<

p> The DBT your doctors want you to participate in is a great idea. DBT will teach you how to cope and how to sooth yourself when you become overwhelmed. It will also teach you how to get a little emotional disengagement from your trauma. In general, any sort of practice you might engage in that helps you to develop your ability to detach emotionally when overwhelmed (e.g., relaxation training, meditation, yoga, DBT, EMDR, etc.) might be helpful. Keep a positive attitude and push yourself forward when you have the strength to do that, forgiving yourself those times when you don’t. Slowly over time (which is the right way to do this) – life may get easier.

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Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    I am a therapist and your comment about how we must deal with it all our lives is true. My therapist did not tell me this, in fact, she told me i would be healed, I am not ###@# healed and in fact, It has come back worse in ways. I am frustrated and have even been told by my wife that she is sick of the "little boy" sexual problems I have, I feel like a total failure. I feel so insecure, yet I help others. I am a very good therapist in fact and give my patients what I do not get. I feel I am never going to measure up to being a "real man."

  • Rhea

    If you are having a difficult time with PTSD, I would look into EMDR. When I first started Eye Movement Detestation Reprocessing I didn't believe it, but the further I got into my therapy the more I got better. I also learned techniques that when i would first do them, I rolled my eyes. But after the first time I finished it, I cried because I had so much relief. I would look into it if you are struggling and cannot find a way out! It has seriously changed my life! I hope it can help you out!

    -Rhea

  • A.C.

    I have PTSD, and have for a few years. I suggested to my mother that I attented couseling when I began avoiding my stepdad due to the fear that associated the disorder. My pyschiatrist made my disorder worse, not better. I'm not saying this will happen for everyone, but I noticed that instead of helping me get past my fear and other issues, she made me overwhelmed by them she treated me with what I call the "textbook method", using no real emotion or personal involvement. I needed to trust her to recover, and I could not. Through the past couple of years, I have walked the long, dark road through my issues and emeged stronger, if stripped of the defenses that kept me safe while I was recovering. I still have issues with the past, and once in a while I realize just how badly my PTSD still affects me (ie, I don't like being touched, especially by men.), and it's hard to cope at times. But I've moved into the present, out of the past, and that's what matters.

    AC

  • Lartista

    Hi "Rest of your Life",

    Suffering from PTSD my whole life, somewhere converting to Complex PTSD along the way I stand here coming out of a 2 year nervous breakdown extensive with Suicideal Idealation for 18 months, wondwering about my life and how it got here.

    I made up a theory called the SINKING BUBBLE THEORY. When pouring beer from a tap, at first the bubbles appear to sink. After a while, the bubbles rise, maybe when you don't want too. I bubbled wrapped all my trauma inncident by inncident, to my sheer amazment and stupidity, they all burst simutaniosly againt my will in the ICU unit the day of open heart surgery with the newest trauma occuring that day and my disosiativeness not kicking in during my body's weakness. Basically the shit hit the fan!

    Though this may nopt be your time for a severe crisis, do not fool yourself. All shit swept under the rug, you will breathe one day.

    I am not 5 months out of the major depression and I see myself cycling. I am out on disability full time. I left the USA with my small daughter and live in Italy as my shoulder are no longer strong. I do beleive in the long run I will have a better, more honest life. Honest with myself I can handle all that I saw and experioenced that one should never have to know.

    Take the condition seriuos. When it's PTSD all is more easily coped with but when it turns to C-PTSD, stay with help always. Whether therapy, whether antidepressants, painting, writing, get you network lined up and respect it.

    www.francescaowens.com and

    www.saskworld.com/bodymindspirit/edition23/modiglini.html

    At the moment I am dedicating my life to a new art exhibition and C-PTSD, illness, sickness, trauma and tragedy of 39 famous artists... I will be the 40 in the group.

    Ciao, Francesca

  • Teresa

    My parents were military as I was born in Japan during Vietnam. Is there a chance I have PTSD as I feel I have?

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