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
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.
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
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.
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
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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