💔 AFTER-EFFECTS (cont)
This is when someone with PTSD is exposed to actual people, places, events, situations or environments similar to the original harmful ones. Such people tend to develop a range of avoidance strategies to protect themselves from possible reminders of their past trauma, & those who’ve been re-traumatized will often double down on this strategy.
But it should not be confused with re-victimization, when PTSD sufferers are currently abused or injured in the same way as in the past.
Re-traumatizing events replicate important elements of the original trauma (with feelings of loss of power, control or personal safety) without experiencing the actual events themselves. These may include exposure to violence or abuse that does not harm the PTSD sufferer, but still brings up vivid memories of past experiences, as well as compassion & empathy for the other victims.
EXPs: Traumatic or stressful events seen in movies, TV shows, news reports, online….can be triggers if there’s enough similarity to the person’s previous trauma. (Child / domestic abuse, natural disaster, war images, drunken fights, political wrangling, riots, school killings…..)
The PTSD person may not be assaulted, abused, or injured in any of these situations, but just being exposed to the possibility of harm may be enough to bring back unpleasant memories in a disturbingly intense form.
Also, dysfunctional but not abusive relationships, with abandonment or conflicts can set off PTSD symptoms. Good relationships that end in tragedy (death or disappearance of a loved one) are also potential triggers, if the original trauma involved a similar loss.
AFTER re-traumatization, PTSD sufferers will go through a period of heightened sensibility & renewed vulnerability to traumatic memories. This means increased anxiety & physical stress, which set off or worsen various medical conditions.
These ailments are associated with PTSD in general, so episodes of re-traumatization can increase occurrences, including :
⁍Arthritis, Chronic body pain, Headaches
⁍Diabetes, Respiratory disorders
⁍Insomnia, restless sleep, nightmares, fatigue
☔︎ Eating disorders. One study of women seeking treatment for eating disorders found that 52% showed symptoms consistent with PTSD
☔︎ Major depression. Research reveals that about half of all people with a PTSD diagnosis will also experience the symptoms of major depression.
☔︎ Other anxiety disorders. Up to 80% of PTSD sufferers will have co-occurring mental health conditions & other anxiety disorders like : Generalized anxiety, Social anxiety, panic & specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder
☔︎ Substance-use disorders. In one comprehensive study, nearly half (46.7%) of PTSD sufferers also met the criteria for a substance-use disorder
GOOD NEWS : Re-traumatization does not have to sabotage recovery. People with PTSD know that, even as treatment progresses, triggering events can take them back to difficult times & force them to relive harsh, painful memories.
The techniques they’ve learned – to manage their symptoms – can still be effective, & the perspective they’ve gained won’t be forgotten.
Treatment for PTSD isn’t a quick fix or a straight route. It’s important to stay focused on the future, with hope & positive beliefs. This applies to re-traumatization experiences as well. Although recovery is a long-term process, everyone’s pace is different.
Helpful tips include:
‣ becoming more physically active
‣ eating a balanced diet, getting adequate rest
‣getting help from family members, friends, or a health professional
‣ reaching out socially, such as to friends or coworkers, volunteering
Successful recovery requires time, commitment, patience, & self-acceptance. If these qualities & tools are available & consistently applied, then the effects of re-traumatization only need be a temporary setback – painful, but temporary.
NEXT : After-effects