Monday, July 4, 2022

What PTSD Really Means

How to deal with PTSD

Editor’s note: May is Mental Health Awareness month, and so we here at The King’s Collective have teamed with The King’s University’s Marriage and Family Therapy department to bring you some great articles about issues related to mental health.

Mental health terminology has infiltrated everyday dialogue. Many terms, and even diagnoses, have become modern-day buzzwords. Terminology such as gaslighting, mindfulness, self-care, narcissist, trauma, triggered, and PTSD are commonly thrown around in everyday conversations. These buzzwords are utilized by many to describe their everyday lives. They are wielded many times, but not all times, without understanding. They are used in deep conversations or even as punchlines. We joke about having PTSD from just about any non-traumatic event. To some degree, many of us are guilty of overusing or misusing these terms. This overuse or misuse can bring confusion, frustration, or even harm, especially if someone is unfairly labeled. Let’s take a closer look at PTSD through some clinical and spiritual insights. 

What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop following exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. This includes direct exposure, witnessing the event, learning that the event occurred to a close friend or family member, or repeated exposure to aversive details of the event. 

Gender & Trauma Type in PTSD

Studies show that women report significantly higher rates of PTSD as compared to men. These studies are inconclusive on whether this difference is due to frequency in PTSD inducing events or unwillingness of men to report. However, trauma type has a stronger effect on severity than gender.  

The type of traumatic event can impact both PTSD risk and severity. PTSD is associated with different types of traumas. The three types examined here are sexual assault (SA), sudden and unexpected death of a loved one (SUD), and motor vehicle accident (MVA). 

A victim of sexual violence (SA) is at greater risk a PTSD diagnosis and will likely experience higher levels of symptom severity. Distinct trauma types can also be related to distinct PTSD symptom presentations. “Symptoms conceptually related to interpersonal loss—such as restricted range of affect/inability to love close others, avoidance of thoughts/feelings, detachment/estrangement—were significantly more severe in SA and SUD than in MVA” (Kelley, Weathers, McDevitt-Murphy, Eakin, & Flood, 2009). Interpersonal violence has been found more traumatizing than other trauma types (Hetzel-Riggin & Roby, 2013).

The length and severity of the trauma experienced will have an impact on the severity of PTSD symptoms. “When the exposure to trauma is more prolonged or severe, when it involves interpersonal violence or occurs during childhood, the prevalence of PTSD can reach much higher levels, up to 30% in the general population” (Stefanopoulou, Lewis, Mughal, & Larkin, 2020).

Interventions & Hope

The most important step in dealing with any problem is to acknowledge there is a problem. Without action a problem will only get worse. Untreated PTSD can also exacerbate other mental health difficulties. “Poor anger control, drug and alcohol problems, anxiety and depression can also develop alongside symptoms of PTSD, which can increase the burden of illness for individuals. Effective treatment is, therefore, crucial for reduction of symptoms and improvement in daily functioning” (Stefanopoulou, Lewis, Mughal, & Larkin, 2020). The good news is there is a wide variety of effective treatment options for persons who suffer from PTSD.

There is a great deal of ongoing research into PTSD and many successful interventions. There are more spiritually rooted interventions available, but unfortunately they are not known as the most mainstream. There are also different forms and settings to fit a person’s lifestyle or learning environment. These interventions range from in person to digital based mobile applications. Interventions can be for individuals, couples, and groups. The bottom line is that finding the right fit for your personality, situation, or lifestyle is getting easier. Whatever the choice, we can be confident that the God of hope can fill us completely with joy and peace (Holy Bible, New Living Translation [NLT], 2015, Romans 15:13). However, taking action is always up to the individual.

The Search for Peace

Whether or not we are experiencing PTSD symptoms, each of us is searching for peace. When life overwhelms us, our mind fills with noise. A noisy mind is cluttered, confused, and dysfunctional. This makes it difficult to process our everyday life. It also becomes difficult to clearly hear God. God’s peace exceeds anything we can understand (Holy Bible, New Living Translation [NLT], 2015, Philippians 4:7). His peace brings comfort and increases our capacity to manage everyday life. As a believer, we must quiet our mind so we can hear and feel the peace of God’s voice. 

There are practical mindfulness exercises to consider. Breathing, grounding, and visualization exercises can all be useful in quieting the noise in our mind. A simple internet search can supply you with useful articles or videos in these areas. 

If you suspect you might be suffering from PTSD, find a qualified mental health professional who is trained to assess and treat PTSD. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you areas of your life that may contain less peace than others. Once you identify these areas, ask the Holy Spirit for a strategy to help you adopt His peace, His mindset, and His strategy for overcoming the PTSD obstacle.  

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

Hetzel-Riggin, M., & Roby, R. (2013). Trauma Type and Gender Effects on PTSD, General Distress, and Peritraumatic Dissociation. Journal of Loss & Trauma18(1), 41–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325024.2012.679119

Holy Bible, New Living Translation. (2015). Tyndale House Publishers (Original work published 1996).

Kelley, L. P., Weathers, F. W., McDevitt-Murphy, M. E., Eakin, D. E., & Flood, A. M. (2009). A comparison of PTSD symptom patterns in three types of civilian trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress22(3), 227–235. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.20406

Smothers, Z. P. W., & Koenig, H. G. (Harold G. (2018). Spiritual Interventions in Veterans with PTSD: A Systematic Review. Journal of Religion and Health57(5), 2033–2048. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-018-0680-5

Stefanopoulou, E., Lewis, D., Mughal, A., & Larkin, J. (2020). Digital Interventions for PTSD Symptoms in the General Population: a Review. Psychiatric Quarterly91(4), 929–947. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11126-020-09745-2

This article was written by TKU Master of Marriage and Family student Ryan Fray and Dr. Cassie Reid.

Dr. Cassie Reid
Dr. Cassie Reidhttp://www.tku.edu
Dr. Cassie Reid is associate professor of counseling and director of the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program at The King's University in Southlake, Texas.