PTSD is Contagious

It took me years to realize how much having PTSD for 25 years affected the people around me.  Often times the people that I care about the most.  If you are suffering from PTSD I assure you in addition to the harm that this sickness causes you that it is hurting your friends and family.  Anyone who is in close proximity to you will be affected by your PTSD.  Sorry, I don’t want to be a downer but I do want to encourage you to seek treatment so you can get better, live in peace and begin the inventory of personal relationships that may need healing.  This is very difficult and often you may not see the damage your sickness has caused.  The difficulty in seeing the damage caused by your sickness is another reason to seek the guidance of a therapist who is trained AND experienced in treating trauma victims.

Did you know PTSD is contagious?  It is true.  You cannot catch PTSD from someone sneezing or blowing their nose and not washing their hands.  However, those nearest to you can “catch” PTSD from you due to your behavior.  Will, they catch a serious case of PTSD?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It is almost assured that they will be damaged emotionally.  As you begin to get better and receive healing from PTSD it becomes a little easier to see the damage you have caused to others.

I don’t want to hit you over the head with this fact but simply to cause all those with PTSD to understand that many other people are affected by how PTSD causes you to live your life.  This can be a friend or group of friends that after inviting you to many functions without you showing up simply stop inviting you or having any hope that you will ever show up.  I understand that this is because you are sick with PTSD and the thought of going out into an uncontrolled environment scares the shit out of you.  The problem is, however, those people probably do not understand that this is the reason why.  Almost every relationship you have will bear some of the damage that PTSD causes.  Your coworkers, friends, family members, etc.

My PTSD has damaged my relationship with my children.  During my EMDR treatment, I went to both of my kids and explained why I had been such an asshole so many times. They deserved an explanation for my distant and seemingly uncaring attitude.  Repairing these relationships takes time and intense effort on your part.  My PTSD affected my beautiful wife in a huge way.  Imagine being married to a hyper-vigilant, angry, terrified and distracted person for years and years.  It takes its toll on all of your relationshups.

Here is the good news.  Those relationships can be restored most of the time.  Sadly, not all of the time.  Our responsibility to those we have harmed is, to be honest, and contrite.  We must work consciously and diligently to bring peace and healing to these relationships.  While it is true that some relationships are permanently damaged by this disorder (more accurately an injury to the brain) not all are irreparably harmed.  In fact, I believe that most of those relationships can be repaired and even become stronger. Keep your head up.  Remember you are a survivor.  Face the relationships that need to be repaired with humility, honesty and the firm resolve to own your stuff and work as hard as you can to allow them to heal.  After years of PTSD induced behavior, it may take a while for these relationships and these people to forgive you.  Just as you probably weren’t aware of the damage you were causing the people who were affected may not be fully aware of the scope of the damage that has been done to them.

Let’s move forward and be at peace with everyone if it is at all possible.  Once again remember you are a survivor and after the darkness, the sun does shine…every day.

What PTSD Taught Me About Therapists Part 1

My last installment of this PTSD series looked at what I have learned about health care professionals in general and their knowledge or lack of knowledge about PTSD.  Today I want to look at what I have learned about really talented therapists.  Many of you have been to therapists with no results or, not the results and healing that you are seeking.  My hope is that this post will help in some way.  Don’t give up!  You can find a competent therapist to be your partner during your healing journey.  Remember, your therapist works for you.  He or she is an indispensable part of your healing, but you are the boss.  Many medicines are used to treat PTSD.  Antidepressants (Prozac), benzodiazepines (Valium), and mood stabilizers (Lamotrigine) are all used by doctors in their treatment of PTSD.  Medicine is only one tool that can be used to help treat PTSD.  However,  psychotherapy especially EMDR  is the most effective treatment for many if not most PTSD sufferers.  If you are not familiar with what EMDR is you can read this.

When choosing a therapist for PTSD I would like to make the following suggestions:

  1.  Select a therapist that specializes in PTSD.  Many therapists will list in their profile that they treat PTSD and trauma.  This may be true but finding one who does PTSD and EMDR as the majority of their practice is what you are looking for.  At one point in my journey I went to a therapist and during my intake, she stopped me and said she didn’t have enough experience to treat me.  She had PTSD and trauma listed as her specialties.  PTSD and EMDR treatment require more than a simple cursory understanding of the disorder.  Dr. Frank Ochberg is a pioneer in the treatment and causes of PTSD.  He is a rare mix of academic excellence, incredible warmth and compassion as well as the ability to help lay people understand the complexities of PTSD.  You can find many of his videos here.
  2. Select a therapist that you feel you can trust.  Sometimes, it is hard to know how you feel about a therapist because intake appointments are usually not enough time to form an opinion.  Use your gut feeling.  If the therapist seems rushed or perturbed with your desire to find out about their practice and experience than you can fire them.  Think of your initial appointment as an interview.  Ask questions of the therapist, read reviews online, talk to former or current patients. Schedule another appointment if you need to get a better feel of them.  Due diligence pays off.
  3.  Select a therapist that you can’t bull sh*t or intimidate. The fact of the matter is PTSD treatment involves visiting past traumatic events and trusting your therapist to push you and guide you when needed is essential.  A good therapist will work with you as memeber of your team.  Remember the treatment of PTSD is a difficult endeavor.  A good therapist will encourage you to be honest and brave in a compassionate and winsome manner.  I went to many therapists until I found one that was a good fit for me and my needs.  A good therapist also has to have your permission to push back a little when it is called for.  Again, experience and compassion are what you are looking for.