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Depression & Stress
Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Although Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is often linked with the Vietnam combat veteran, PTSD is the term applied to psychological and emotional problems that develop as the result of experiencing any serious, traumatic event; including natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes, or accidental disasters, such as car accidents, airplane crashes, fires, collapses of a building, or deliberately caused disasters, such as rape, assault, kidnapping, torture or combat.

People suffering from PTSD survived a terrifying experience that left them feeling helpless and frightened. Though the trauma may have occurred months or years ago, the survivor continues to have problems because they keep re-experiencing the traumatic event, or avoid stimuli associate with the event, or get generally “numb” to all feelings.

In addition to the emotional component of these devastating events, many survivors also have other physical problems that were produced by the trauma itself, such as head injuries and malnutrition – that will affect their functioning for a lifetime.

As mental health professionals have become more educated about the long term devastation traumatic events can have on a person’s psychological functioning, they have learned that there are far more people suffering from PTSD than they had previously realized. Many PTSD survivors have just been getting by. But now they are beginning to seek help because their marriages are suffering, or they are having anger control problems at work, or chronic insomnia. It is important to realize that these are just symptoms; just the “tip of the iceberg.” The deeper problem is usually a recurring nightmare that the survivor can’t escape from.

Without recognition, and if only the symptom is treated, the problem intensifies over the years – causing greater and greater distress. Often the tragic outcome is divorce, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, because the survivor can no longer contain their feelings.

As bleak as it seems I have painted this picture, there is help. If you are experiencing any one of these symptoms, you are probably a survivor of a trauma and you are experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

  1. Depression
  2. Sleep disturbances
  3. Tendency to react under stress with survival tactics
  4. Psychic or emotional numbing
  5. Emotional constriction
  6. Loss of interest in work and activities
  7. Survivor guilt
  8. Hyperalertness
  9. Fantasies of retaliation
  10. Avoidance of activities that arouse memories of traumas
  11. Suicidal feelings and thoughts
  12. Flashbacks
  13. Fantasies of destruction
  14. Cynicism and distrust of government and authority
  15. Alienation
  16. Concern with humanistic values overlaid by hedonism
  17. Negative self-image
  18. Memory impairment
  19. Anger
  20. Anxiety
  21. Hyper-sensitivity to justice
  22. Problems with intimate relationships
  23. Difficulty with authority figures
  24. Emotional distance from children, spouse an others
  25. Self-deceiving and self-punishing patterns of behavior, such as an inability to talk about war experiences, fear of losing others, and a tendency to fits of rage.

Fortunately, PTSD is very responsive to a variety of psychotherapies. In individual therapy, the survivor can learn a new perspective on the past. With the gentle support of an experienced psychotherapist, you will find new and healthier ways to put old memories to rest. In couples therapy, you and your spouse will learn to help each other through the stressful periods. And group therapy with other survivors gives you an opportunity to learn from, and help other, who’ve “been there.” There are special therapy groups for Vietnam veterans, incest survivors, and parents who have lost a child, as well as many others. The type of therapy that is best for you can be discussed with a professional experienced in treating PTSD.

Dr. Kathy Marshack can help you. She is accepting new clients and has two office locations for your convenience. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area (or can drive to these locations) please call to set up your first appointment. See Therapy FAQs for more information. Please give us a call at (360) 256-0448 or (503) 222-6678 or email us at info@kmarshack.com.