Ask 10 people if they have ever experienced trauma. How many people would say yes? We suspect the majority would say they had, especially if trauma was fully defined in advance.
Trauma is any injury, whether physically or emotionally inflicted. It’s often classified in two ways: big “T” trauma and little “t” trauma. The former refers to an identifiable and catastrophic event such as severe physical abuse, rape, extreme injury, or witnessing violence. The latter is more about reoccurring painful situations or experiences such as childhood neglect, being bullied or teased, or experiencing alcoholism in the family. In other words, trauma has a broad definition, which is why most people would answer “yes” to the question.
This brings us to the topic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) PTSD is defined as a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. Since trauma is so common, so is PTSD.
Public perception has long been that those with PTSD
suffer endlessly and rarely return to a normal, productive life. That notion was recently dispelled in a New York Times
magazine article that focused on post-traumatic growth. This is when people actually experience personal growth in the wake of trauma. Research of trauma survivors indicates that positive change can occur in five areas: a renewed appreciation for life, new possibilities for themselves, more personal strength, improved relationships, and an increase in spiritual satisfaction.
It’s important to note that the concept of post-traumatic growth is not intended to minimize the very real, often horrific, mental, emotional, or physical pain experienced by any trauma survivor. Quite the opposite, it is intended to offer hope to the millions of those who suffer from PTSD.
If you or someone you know, is plagued by PTSD, please know that help is available. After all, PTSD is a disorder
, not a disease. Recent research suggests up to 90% of all cases are wholly treatable. With appropriate therapy, not only is symptom-relief possible, but you may experience personal growth and happiness in areas you never even imagined.
- Dr. Kim Dennis
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