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Post Traumatic Stress: What to Watch For!

By Dr. Molly Barrow

Has someone that you love experienced a traumatic event recently? Do you want to help them but you do not know how to begin? Here are ten ways to deal with post traumatic stress.

1. The Condition Is Real: Acute post traumatic stress lasts about one to three months. Chronic post traumatic stress lasts more than three months and "delayed onset" post traumatic stress arrives at least six months after the event or stress. The sooner that a person is de-briefed after a traumatic event the less likely the person will have prolonged post-traumatic stress. Make an appointment as soon as possible with an experienced strong therapist who can listen over and over to the details of the event to help desensitize the trauma fears. If a person is talking suicide take them seriously and get them immediately to a hospital or psychiatrist where they may receive observation or medication.

2. Kids Act Differently: A child responds differently to a trauma then an adult. An adult who experiences intense fear, horror or helplessness may become hysterical, freeze, or act violent. A child may simple act agitated and disorganized. Watch for sleep disturbances, anger, difficulty concentrating, jumpiness or acting too vigilant. A person may also begin to act detached from people, places and activities that were once pleasurable.

3. Indulge: A child may begin to act out the aspects of the trauma repeatedly in play times. Images, thoughts and recollections may occur in adults causing distress. Leave a light on, soft music playing or let someone sleep next to your bed if they are having trouble sleeping at night. Avoid sleeping with the television on because the vulnerable mind is listening while they sleep to conflicts, violence or hard selling that may make the person more upset. This may be the time to indulge an adult or child. Avoid putting more pressure on them or attempting to toughen them up. Taking a child's favorite blanket or toy away to help them grow up is bad psychology anyway, and would be even worse in a state of trauma.

4. Be On Their Side: Flashbacks are frequently extremely disturbing and can be triggered by any of the senses, smells, sounds or visual stimulation that reminds the person of the traumatic event. They may temporarily lose their defenses and re-experience the horror of the event. Be patient and try to calm the person by reassuring them that they are safe now. Some combat veterans struggle with flashbacks and post traumatic stress for many years. If you feel embarrassed in public when a nice event becomes a meltdown, then you may be choosing the side of the public and not your loved one. They are in the fight of their life and need all the support you can give. Save any criticism for something that can be controlled, not for post traumatic stress.

5. Protect: If your child develops an intense fear of a place or person, listen to them. Sexual abuse or the threat of violence can happen in a minute. Maybe you looked away and something happened to your child. Even an older violent sibling or a grandparent with dementia may act inappropriately. Your job is to protect your child, even from family members. Have your child use dolls to show you what happened to them.

6. Just TV: A rape or murder on television is impossible for a child to dismiss as only acting. Screen all violent images that you can until your child is older, including video games, songs and movies. Nightmares and fears may be triggered by fiction as well as fact.

7. Eat Well: Post traumatic stress can happen from many events, including a car accident, a violent crime or a natural disaster. But recurring thought of horrific images can also be self inflicted trauma. The healthy brain diet requires high quality protein and Omegas found in fish and nut oils, fresh vegetables and fruit to operate properly. Sensitivity to wheat, milk, eggs or additives and vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also make the body and mind ill. Many kids eat waffles for breakfast, mac and cheese for lunch and pizza for dinner. Parents wonder why their children are depressed, obsessed or paranoid with diets of predominantly wheat, sugar and milk. Give the brain and body the best possible organic food and see if post traumatic fears as well as other problem behavior disappear more easily.

8. Never Ever Tell: Are they keeping the trauma a secret? Terrible things can happen to a child or an adult that renders them silent, overwhelmed with guilt or shame. Denial is a coping skill that allows something horrific to be encapsulated and stored in a blocked memory. The very thought of the event is considered too dangerous to remember or even life threatening. A trusted therapist can help to unblock the memory. Remembering may be painful but keeping bad memories inside is toxic to their life and physical health.

9. Why Me? Painful memories eventually fade. Some people are able to cope more easily than others. Post traumatic stress hits frail women, little children or the bravest soldier without discrimination. It is a mental computer glitch that will heal and is no reflection of intelligence, maturity or courage. The brain has override protection that kicks in to protect itself regardless of a person's will. One must simply give the brain an opportunity to reestablish normal operating procedure. How long that takes is unique to every individual.

10. You Are Dismissed: The worst thing a loved one can do is try to sweep the feelings under the rug. Comments like,"Oh, don't be silly," or "That's all in your imagination," do much harm to someone trying to purge themselves of inner demons. Let the person express themselves and hire a professional mental health counselor to help the victim through the worst of it. Soon, you will see the return of lightness and joy in the heart of your loved one.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Molly Barrow.

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