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

The Stories PTSD Tells Me

woman on floor next to shower white towel

This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others.

Images flash back through my mind.

I am locked in a dark office in the corner of another locked room during a free class period of the high school day. I’m balanced precariously on the edge of a desk with my legs wrapped around his body, the bulge in his pants gyrating in the crook between my legs. My mind wanders and eventually lands on my aching muscles, my trembling arms and legs. They’re not going to hold much longer.

He is standing fully clothed, his usual beat-up brown loafers planted on the floor. I smell his Cheer-washed dress shirt and Dial soap-scrubbed skin. His Docker’s are hemmed a couple inches too short. He is 43. I am 17. Those loafers rise and fall off the floor with every thrust of his crotch into me, the friction of fabric on fabric a barely noticeable sensation. All my attention focuses on my awkward position on this desk — my muscles ache and burn in protest.

He grinds away, oblivious in ecstasy, his face turned upwards, making those moaning sounds. Finally, my body overrides my mental willpower to stay upright and my muscles collapse. I start to fall off the desk, headed toward the floor, before he catches me and props me back on the desk.

Other memories follow. Continue reading The Stories PTSD Tells Me

PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder: A Gendered Divide in Diagnosis?

white male solider and black woman split image

As with many types of traumatic or mental disorders, certain criteria must be met to receive a diagnosis. Following the structure of these guidelines is meant to allow for an accurate and unbiased determination. However, when it comes to the differentiation between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the question of whether men and women are diagnosed differently has been raised.

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 1.6% to 5.9% of adults in the U.S. have BPD. And of those actually diagnosed, 75% were women, despite the fact that men are just as likely to display symptoms. A non-profit organization, PTSD United, found that roughly 8% of Americans have PTSD. Additionally, 1 out of 9 females in the U.S. have PTSD, while the rate for males is about half that. These statistics alone call for us to question whether there is a divide in diagnosis based on gender. Before we can safely address the issue of gender, though, it’s important to look at the symptoms and characteristics that are used to diagnose both Borderline Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For a mental health professional to diagnose a patient with BPD, they must display at least 5 of the qualifying symptoms. These include unstable relationships altering between idealization and devaluation, frantic efforts to avoid social abandonment, a distorted self-image that affects emotional stability, impulsive behaviors, suicidal and self-harming behavior, periods of depression, irritability, or anxiety that last between a few hours to a few days, chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness, uncontrollable anger, and dissociative feelings. Most psychological research indicates the causes are genetic, environmental (from the experience of a traumatic event), neurological, or a combination of the three. Continue reading PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder: A Gendered Divide in Diagnosis?

The History of PTSD

soldier holding another in his arms

June is PTSD Awareness Month. To participate in raising awareness and challenging the stigma of mental illness, we are publishing several pieces that show what it means to live with PTSD.

Soldier’s heart. Shell shock. Combat exhaustion. Traumatic neurosis. Gross stress disorder. Combat fatigue. Rape trauma syndrome. Post Vietnam syndrome. It’s gone by many names, but post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms have been cataloged for thousands of years. In fact, descriptions of PTSD can be traced to ancient texts such as The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Soldiers from nearly every war, accident victims, and survivors of natural disasters, rape, and child abuse have exhibited the classic signs of PTSD, including reliving the event, avoidance, negative beliefs, and hyperarousal.

To best tell PTSD’s story, World Wars I and II — and particularly the Vietnam War and Women’s Movement in the 1970s — best capture the evolution of the diagnosis, treatment, and popular perception of what is now code 309.81 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: PTSD. Continue reading The History of PTSD

What Happens in Your Brain During a PTSD Flashback?

brain illustration

When American soldiers came home from the Vietnam War, many found it hard to return to normal life. They were haunted by nightmares; unable to shake the images of explosions and death from their minds, even while awake. They struggled with feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger; confused about how to to make sense of what they had witnessed. In 1980, the afflictions of these soldiers — along with research on the psychological impact of trauma on Holocaust survivors, rape victims, and others — led the American Psychiatric Association to define a new condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the DSM.

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. The condition is defined by symptoms like panic attacks, depression, and insomnia, but one of the most characteristic and debilitating symptoms of PTSD is something called “flashbacks.” Continue reading What Happens in Your Brain During a PTSD Flashback?