All of us experience and heal our trauma in different ways. If you find yourself living in constant fear, unable to shake flashbacks, and wound up in anxiety, it’s possible you’re dealing with something larger. While not everyone with trauma will experience PTSD, it’s true that you could develop this condition if you have unhealed trauma.
Regardless of whether or not you have PTSD, you deserve to be free from your trauma and live a full, vibrant and happy life. With holistic PTSD treatment, this sort of lifelong healing is possible. Read on to learn more about PTSD, the facts about this condition in the US, and what to do if you think you may need help.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder: a set of symptoms that develops as a result of trauma. In the past, trauma was defined by the severity of the event that occurred. However, these days we realize that trauma is unique to each person. We experience trauma when an event overwhelms our capacity to cope. This means that a situation that’s deeply traumatizing to one person may hardly affect another.
PTSD falls under the larger umbrella of trauma and post-traumatic stress. It occurs when your trauma response negatively impacts your daily life, and this persists for over one month. Some people develop PTSD immediately following a shocking event, like after being physically assaulted. But others develop symptoms of PTSD long after the event, such as in adulthood years after growing up with neglect.
How Many People Have PTSD?
While all types of trauma can lead to PTSD, that doesn’t mean that they all will. Traumatic events affect all of us differently. It’s impossible to say what sort of experiences will trigger a trauma response from one person to another. However, there are a few figures that may make it easier for you to understand how common it really is to live with the impacts of trauma.
70% of US adults report experiencing some sort of trauma in their lives. And 20% of trauma survivors develop symptoms of PTSD. This means that as a whole, about 6-7% of the US population will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime.
Challenges in Tracking Trauma and PTSD
These figures can help us understand the relationship between trauma and PTSD. But there are of course challenges in properly tracking the statistics. Most studies examining the relationship between trauma and PTSD only look at PTSD in relation to what people consider their worst lifetime trauma. One study compiled the results from a series of trauma and PTSD surveys by the World Health Organization. It finds that “this approach makes it impossible to estimate the conditional risk of PTSD after trauma exposure without upward bias because the traumas for which PTSD is assessed are atypically severe.”
Self-reporting trauma and PTSD can also have a huge impact on these numbers. For example, people have different perspectives on what “counts” as a traumatic event. Some cultures discourage people from labeling negative experiences as trauma, making it less likely that people will honestly report that they’ve survived a traumatic event.
Who is Most at Risk for PTSD?
Experts previously thought PTSD was something largely felt by veterans and survivors of extreme events. But we now know that people can suffer trauma responses from a wide range of causes. That said, certain life experiences are more likely to result in trauma and PTSD. These include:
- Car accidents
- Sexual abuse
- Childhood abuse
- Witnessing death or injury
- Being a victim of violent crime
- Diagnosis with a life-threatening illness
- Natural disaster
Even if you’ve never struggled with one of the above situations, you might still find yourself living with PTSD. That’s because our trauma responses are unique to each of us. You might experience a “smaller” trauma that deeply impacts the way you move through the world.
Remember, PTSD isn’t a reflection of how strong you are as a person. Rather, it’s your body and spirit’s natural way of attempting to heal from distressing events.
How Do I Know If I Have PTSD?
If you think you may have PTSD, consider the following signs and symptoms. Also think about how severe they are, and how long they last:
- Flashbacks or recurring memories of your trauma
- Social isolation and withdrawal
- Lack of emotion or numbness
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Memory loss
- Concentration loss
- Heightened alert
- Muscle tension
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
Many of these signs are associated with all sorts of recovery from trauma. But if you find yourself unable to fully participate in or enjoy your life, there’s a chance you may have PTSD.
In addition to the signs listed above, the following symptoms point to another form of PTSD called complex PTSD (C-PTSD):
- Difficulty controlling intense emotions
- Anger or distrust toward the world
- Feeling permanently damaged or worthless
- Seeing yourself as different than others
- The belief that nobody can understand what’s happened to you
- Severe physical symptoms, including headaches, chest pain, or stomach issues
- Suicidal feelings
How Can PTSD Impact My Life?
PTSD is a natural reaction to trauma that persists and affects your daily life for at least a month. If you’re struggling with post-traumatic stress, it might show up in your life in one or several of the following ways:
1. PTSD Can Make You Avoidant
Many people with PTSD find themselves avoiding people, places, and situations that remind them of the trauma they experienced. For example, if your trauma took place in a certain part of your city, you may find yourself avoiding that area at all costs, even when it’s highly inconvenient. And while it’s perfectly natural to avoid the things that have harmed us before, this sort of avoidance can start to take over your life.
For some people with PTSD, it’s not just external avoidance they experience. Rather, they also avoid certain thoughts and feelings. They block out the ideas and emotions that naturally bubble to the surface, shutting down to protect themselves. While this reaction makes sense, it ultimately further disconnects you from yourself. And this keeps you from truly healing the deep wounds that cause your pain.
2. PTSD Can Change Your Brain Chemistry
It’s not just in your head—the trauma you’ve experienced can actually change the structure of your brain. Often, people with PTSD have higher levels of cortisol and other stress hormones firing throughout their brains. This can make you feel listless, apathetic, and depressed over time. You may no longer gain pleasure from activities that you once enjoyed, and you may begin to withdraw from loved ones.
Higher levels of stress hormones can also make you feel hypervigilant as if you’re on high alert at all times. If you’ve got a sense of anxiety you just can’t seem to shake, it may be from the way PTSD is changing the neurotransmitters in your brain.
3. PTSD Can Impact Your Physical Health
Walking through life unable to feel safe has a serious impact on your physical health. Lots of people struggling with PTSD also have difficulty sleeping, eating, and reacting proportionately to otherwise low-stakes situations.
For example, your PTSD may make it difficult for you to eat regular, nourishing meals. Or it might keep you up at night, tossing and turning from nightmares related to your trauma. On the other hand, you may be highly reactive and jumpy, scaring easily at things that didn’t bother you before.
4. PTSD Can Make You Feel Isolated and Alone
For those with PTSD, it can be difficult to feel safe around other people. Between your hypersensitivity and increased avoidance, it can be easy to push away loved ones — even when you need them most.
Many people living with post-traumatic stress disorder feel totally alone in their struggles. You may even be socially active and communicate regularly with friends and family. But it’s not unusual to feel deeply alone as if no one could possibly understand how you’re feeling or what you’ve been through.
When to Seek Help for PTSD
If you resonate with what you’re reading here, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Healing from PTSD is possible. You should seek help for healing your trauma if you:
- Are you constantly on edge, anxious, or distressed
- Experience flashbacks or reactions that get in the way of daily tasks
- Have severe sleep struggles due to your trauma
- Find yourself emotionally shutting down to avoid processing your trauma
- Use alcohol, drugs, or other addictive substances or behaviors to cope
- Are thinking of harming yourself or someone else
These are all signs that your trauma is taking over your life. With time and compassionate, professional care, you can begin your healing journey through holistic trauma treatment.
What Can I Do To Heal My Trauma & PTSD?
The good news is that a number of therapies have been found to successfully treat and heal PTSD. Each of these therapies approaches trauma from a different angle, so they can be used together to help you heal different aspects of your PTSD and the ways it affects your life. These therapies include, but aren’t limited to:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you to understand the way you think and behave, and how to change so they’re not all based in your trauma.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR uses eye movements to help you transfer memories to a safer place in your brain, so you don’t feel so intensely affected by them.
- Exposure therapy (ET): ET provides you the opportunity to reprocess your trauma in a safe space and with the help of a trained professional.
- Energy medicine: Energetic and ceremonial work guides you on an inward journey to discover the issues at the core of your wounding, and the answers you already possess.
Holistic Trauma Care at The Sanctuary
PTSD can feel like you’re living in a constant state of crisis. While this can be extremely difficult, crisis is also an opportunity for growth. The challenges you face are a sign that something deep within you is in need of your attention, care, and kindness.
Here at The Sanctuary, we help you to heal PTSD through a completely personalized, holistic treatment program. We integrate a variety of approaches according to your unique needs, which may include any of the above therapies as well as others. At The Sanctuary, we encourage you to explore a range of therapeutic options, so you can find what inspires you. Our team of therapists are highly skilled, compassionate, and happy to guide you through the process.
Our holistic PTSD treatment program includes a four-part healing journey, which consists of:
- Shedding belief systems that are rooted in your past
- Identifying shadow aspects of yourself and learning to relate to them differently
- Envisioning a life that serves your true purpose in the world
- Implementing the changes you’ve made and bringing your vision to life
This all takes place in a safe, supportive environment. And you’ll be accepted and encouraged every step of the way. In fact, many of our clients say that they immediately feel like one of the family and that this helps tremendously with their ability to unwind, find comfort and thoroughly heal.
Get in touch today to learn more about our completely different approach to healing PTSD at The Sanctuary. We’d love to talk with you about your healing journey, see if our program is the right fit for what you need, and connect you with resources to get started.
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona.
He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]