At the Transformation Center in Memphis, TN, we treat civilians with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). We often hear about PTSD and know that it is related to trauma. We usually hear it associated with soldiers in combat. The reality is that PTSD affects people of all ages, and walks of life. In this video Dr. Alison Bigelow explains what PTSD actually is and how it relates to trauma.
If you think about trauma as the event or the circumstances that you endured or suffered through, PTSD actually is the story that you tell yourself about as to why or how that happened.
Take for example, you’re in a car accident. The person who doesn’t develop PTSD will probably be shaken up for a few weeks after that car accident, but the person that does develop PTSD as a result of that accident has internalized some negative beliefs about themself. They might think that they are no longer safe when they’re in the car, they might think that the accident was their fault. If there were any injuries , they might feel really guilty about that. What happens is those negative internalized believe become sort of stuck inside the brain so that these negative feelings start running your show and kind of talking at you all the time, especially if you have a history of other incidents in the past where you have internalized the same negative belief.
Under most circumstances when you experience a traumatic event, there is a resilient part of you that is able to put that traumatic memory or that event in your brain encoded as a memory that occurred. You’re never going to really feel great about it. It’s never going to be pleasant, but it’s filed away as a distinct memory, and it’s in the past. For someone who experiences or develops PTSD, that process is a bit different. What happens is the nervous system in that moment, never turns off, and so, in the future when you experience something similar that triggers that memory, it’s really hard to the brain to determine whether this event happened in the past or if it’s occurring now. For someone with PTSD, it feels like that event is always happening to them.