Understanding Survivor’s Guilt

9/11 Memorial

Where were you on 9/11?

We all have our own story. Maybe you watched the news unfold on TV in your college dorm room, shaking and sobbing. Maybe you heard the news spread through the halls of your elementary school, feeling confused and scared, longing to go home. Or maybe you listened to the car radio while driving to work, feeling numb from the shock.

Perhaps you were in one of the locations that was attacked and you remember every sight, every smell, every detail of that horrific day. Continue reading Understanding Survivor’s Guilt

Can You Inherit Trauma?

Auschwitz in winter

Pivotal historic events from centuries past like wars, famines, and genocide can seem far removed from our daily experience. Many believe that what previous generations faced was several lifetimes ago, having little impact on their descendants today. Time and physical proximity may cause you to feel similarly, yet new research suggests that trauma may cross generational lines and affect those that come after us.

Intergenerational trauma – or trauma that has the potential to impact future generations of individuals within a family system – has become hotly contested as researchers dive into the field of epigenetics. So what is epigenetics and what does it mean for us today? Continue reading Can You Inherit Trauma?

What Happens in Your Brain During a PTSD Flashback?

A hand holds up a sparkler firework in front of an American flag

Haunted by nightmares — unable to shake memories of explosions, death, and visions of war — veterans can struggle with these images, even while awake. Many experience feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger; confused about how to make sense of what they have witnessed. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often makes it hard for soldiers to return to normal life.

Although people often associate PTSD with veterans affected by the horrors of war, the condition can develop in anyone who has experienced a dangerous, shocking, or life-threatening event such as rape, childhood abuse, or a serious accident. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD will affect 6.8% of U.S. adults in their lifetime. With gun violence on the rise in the United States, survivors of mass shootings and those who reside near a mass shooting might also experience these symptoms, as fireworks can often sound like a gunshot. Continue reading What Happens in Your Brain During a PTSD Flashback?

How to Manage Work While Coping With PTSD

Business man staring out of a window

When I got to work that morning, I had to stand to keep myself calm. I couldn’t sit down. I couldn’t concentrate. My vision was blurred. A coworker peeked her head into my cubicle to say good morning and I almost jumped out of my skin. I texted my husband to tell him what was going on. He texted back to say that he’d made an appointment with my primary care doctor and he was leaving work to take me there.

In the doctor’s office, I started off calmly describing these symptoms, but when she had me describe the car crash I’d been in a few weeks before, I unexpectedly burst into tears. I hadn’t been sleeping and when I did, I’d dream about my teeth flying out of my mouth from the force of the crash. I took crazy routes to avoid the exit where crash had happened, but I’d downplay the crash to anyone who’d asked. Everyone told me they’d been in worse accidents. What was wrong with me? Continue reading How to Manage Work While Coping With PTSD

PTSD and the Difference Between Big ‘T’ and Little ‘t’ Traumas

Man silhouetted in front of fire

We’ve come a long way in our understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. From the early designation of “shell shock” for military veterans to transforming the label of “hysteric” to PTSD for survivors of rape, we know that trauma can have lasting physical and emotional effects on those who experience it.

However, often we default to discussing only soldiers and victims of sexual violence when we talk about PTSD. These experiences are certainly among the leading causes of the mental illness, yet they aren’t the only type of trauma that result in PTSD. Let’s expand on how trauma of any kind changes us and how that impacts the way we think about PTSD.

Continue reading PTSD and the Difference Between Big ‘T’ and Little ‘t’ Traumas

Does the Internet Make PTSD Worse?

Oh, the internet. Home of cute cat videos, sarcastic memes that make us cackle, social media to engage with anyone anywhere, and lightning-fast news with real-time live video. What could go wrong?

For better or worse, the internet has largely become how we consume and share information and interact with others from every corner of the world. Because of its vast and complex nature, it’s hard to determine just how the internet impacts those who use it on a daily basis. But what about for those of us who live with post-traumatic stress disorder? Does the internet make PTSD worse?

Continue reading Does the Internet Make PTSD Worse?

Complex PTSD: How a New Diagnosis Differs From Standard PTSD

Woman on stand with grey background

Your palms sweat. Your heart races. You don’t remember where you are — are you here, now, or back in another, scarier time?

This is a flashback. And for many people living with PTSD, it’s a common experience. Faced with a reminder of a traumatic event, someone with PTSD can be jerked back into the mental, emotional and even physical experience of trauma.

But what happens when that trauma is ongoing, or a prolonged series of events? This is where a Complex PTSD diagnosis bridges an important behavioral health gap.

Continue reading Complex PTSD: How a New Diagnosis Differs From Standard PTSD

Birth Trauma — Perinatal PTSD — Isn’t Unusual, and You’re Not Alone

woman giving birth doctor and nurse treating her

Giving birth can be one of the biggest events in a person’s life, and it’s a loaded experience. Everyone has expectations about what a “good birth” looks like, but birth doesn’t always go as planned. For some parents feelings of disappointment, fear, or stress about the events surrounding the birth of a beloved child can transition into something more serious: birth trauma, also known as perinatal PTSD. This condition is a lot more common than you might think.

Our expanding understanding of psychological trauma has highlighted the fact that PTSD is an issue much broader than the emotional aftermath of experiencing combat. Any intense traumatic experience can have psychological ramifications, whether someone has a history of mental health conditions or not, and no matter how well-prepared someone might be. Birth, accompanied with intense physical and emotional experiences, is no exception. But the myths surrounding pregnancy and childbirth can make people uncomfortable when it comes to speaking out, or uncertain about whether what they’re experiencing is normal. Continue reading Birth Trauma — Perinatal PTSD — Isn’t Unusual, and You’re Not Alone

How Being in the Military Changed My Mind Forever

soldier in uniform with US flag patch

During my first Christmas in Iraq, we were hit by a roadside bomb. It could have been worse. Luckily, no one died in this explosion. Back at the firebase, we were allowed a call on the satellite phone. Some people freely told their parents or loved ones about what had happened. I felt that unbecoming of an infantryman—why scare people back home?—instead I settled on my favorite topic: the weather. Oh stoic me.

Half a year later I was touring Europe with a friend of mine from the same platoon. I wouldn’t say we had seen all that much action, yet there was an anger that was evident in both of us. A hundred and fifty miles per hour seemed too slow. We threw our wrath at anyone in our way. Verbal wrath, but troublesome nonetheless. Whatever I was experiencing I merely concealed by being a stranger in a strange land: the prattle of a foreign language and people going about their way provided a perfect cocoon for me. Continue reading How Being in the Military Changed My Mind Forever

Mental Health Diary: PTSD

woman journaling on table with coffee

Talkspace’s Mental Health Diary series provides an intimate, anonymous week-long look inside the lives of those struggling with mental illness. Our first diary entry is from a Digital Content Producer and Journalist coping with the lingering effects of sexual abuse. Female // 30s // Los Angeles.

Diagnosis: PTSD; Secondary: borderline personality disorder, OCD, depression
Occupation: Digital Content Producer; Journalist
Location: Los Angeles
Medication: Luvox, Abilify, (Prozac); Xanax as needed
Therapy: Two 90-minute in-person therapy sessions a week; Talkspace therapist; Bi-weekly trauma group therapy; Weekly DBT skills group
Health Insurance: Cigna; (Blue Shield)

DAY 1

7:45 a.m.
I get out of bed on the fifth alarm and throw on clothing to get out the door in 10 minutes or less to make it to work on time. Basic self-care stuff baffles me, so I do the best I can in jeans and some rumpled shirt that really should be washed. Continue reading Mental Health Diary: PTSD