Ted Crawford, LMFT, Clinical Therapist
Katie Bigalke, USM Psychology Graduate student and Psychology Extern
The tornado that hit Hattiesburg and the surrounding area on February 10 was a frightening and devastating experience for many. Even though it’s over, numerous people may still have instances when the anxiety from those few minutes seems to “revisit” them. If you’re one of these people, know that after any threatening event, there can be some emotional energy that continues to hang around. If it’s bad enough and goes on for a while, it’s called Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Either way, it’s part of a normal reaction to an abnormal amount of stress. In other words, you’re not going crazy.
PTSD is a condition in which the trauma sufferer is triggered to “re-experience” the event in some way (intrusive thoughts, feelings, body sensations, images, nightmares, etc.). The fear of being triggered naturally causes the person to avoid people, places or situations that they, of course, don’t want to have to avoid. They may also feel depressed or emotionally numb, which can alternate with contrasting periods of heightened senses, feeling “on edge,” being increasingly irritable and having difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
So why do some suffer these symptoms more than others, even after experiencing more-or-less the same trauma? First, know that everyone experiences a crisis differently. Apart from that, know that some threatening events are simply easier to grasp with regard to what’s happening and why. Therefore, we can figure out whatever is necessary for safety and put the energy from our “fight and flight” emotions immediately to use… and we have a great story to tell later. Any leftover energy is processed and released as we tell the story again and again. If we talk about it enough, it loses all stimulation and we actually become bored with it (i.e., from start to finish, everything goes according to the original neurological plan). Other crisis situations, however, leave us with a story that’s so over-stimulating that it feels too difficult to talk (or maybe even think) about. This is usually because the experience, for numerous possible reasons, was too overwhelming in that moment to comprehend, therefore leaving us feeling helpless or “frozen” to some degree. An immobilized mind and body leaves the survival energy with no “discharge instructions.” Trapped inside, this energy prompts the survival portion of the brain to continue sensing a danger that no longer exists, particularly when triggered by something we associate with the event. You can imagine how all of this could interfere with our general ability to digest the experience and come to terms with it!
Now you know that post-traumatic symptoms aren’t caused by the traumatic event itself, rather, they’re the result of not allowing ourselves to feel and express the leftover emotions associated with the event. Emotions are meant to “run their course and exit” and although they can be disturbing, they can’t hurt you unless you keep them bottled up. When an alarming emotion is sparked, it’s an opportunity to discharge the energy it carries, thus allowing the memory of the event to be stored properly (instead of banging around inside our bodies wreaking havoc). This is a requirement for us to fully heal. So talk about the event and how you experienced it. Cry, shout, shake (yes, let yourself fall apart a little... when you can do it safely, of course)! Although our symptoms generally fade when we do this, it’s okay if you need some professional help. Many counselors are trained to work with this particular issue, and can help you through the process toward a full recovery.
There are times in all our lives when help is needed. At Pine Grove Outpatient Services, we understand the changes that life can bring for both adults and children. Pine Grove Outpatient Services is designed to help meet mental health needs by offering outpatient assessment/evaluation, medication management, and individual, family, and specialized therapy services. Highly skilled and experienced psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists are available to help you cope with life's changes.
Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg, Mississippi is known as one of the nation’s most comprehensive treatment campuses. For over twenty five years Pine Grove has offered a continuum of services ranging from outpatient to inpatient and residential treatment for adults, children and adolescents suffering from psychiatric and addictive diseases. Specialized services include the treatment of addictions, eating disorders, and professionals struggling with interpersonal difficulties. The Pine Grove Mission is to be a leader in healing and changing lives by providing the highest quality behavioral health services.
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Labels: Pine Grove Treatment, post traumatic stress disorder, Ted Crawford