Working with survivors of abuse and with U.S. IEF/OEF Veterans in PTSD research projects has taught me a lot about anxiety, the mind, the body, and PTSD.
IEF/OEF veterans are our military men and who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I will never forget a young woman veteran who, after a year of being home, couldn’t help herself from making her 2-year-old stand at attention, being a lookout for her so she could take a shower. She knew there was no threat back here in the U.S. but was unable to stop her body and mind reactions, and this was one of the ways that she was able to do a simple daily task, take a shower. And the young man whose body was so energized and eternally in a state of arousal that he kept enlisting to go back to fight, after 3 tours. “I just need to get back there.” He said over and over. He didn’t want to hurt others. He didn’t want to explode from the body and thoughts that were plaguing him. He had found a ‘useful way’ and ‘appropriate way’ to express the energy and feelings, and when he fought for his country this helped him to create positive meaning out of his existential hell.
PTSD develops from an event, a terrifying event where consciously or unconsciously we believe we are going to die, so the body and autonomic processes in the brain take over.
PTSD affects us on a physical, emotional, mental, interpersonal, whole-self, existential and spiritual level. Physically, our bodies can be triggered into a fight, flight, freeze, or faint response from known or unknown conscious or unconscious environmental or thought circumstance. Feelings about the original event and about the triggers are suppressed, and when they surface can be denied and suppressed again. Interpersonal problems can range from clinging and not being able to be alone (like the mother who had her 2-year-old be a lookout) to isolation and choosing to be away from everyone because you can’t trust yourself.
PTSD does a number on the ‘whole-self’ from low self-esteem to believing that you are never good enough, to feeling existential loneliness and questioning the purpose of your life.
And some of those who suffer with PTSD can begin to question their existence and believe that the universe is against them, rather than understanding that their symptoms are a reaction to a traumatic event, that with professional help, emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual support, this terrifying experience and the symptoms of PTSD represents a call and an opportunity to realize their full potential.
PTSD is a physical, emotional, mental, interpersonal, whole-self, existential and spiritual problem. Seek medical and mental health support from qualified professionals, and emotional, interpersonal, spiritual support from qualified allied health professionals, family and community members.
There are many common thought traps that make anxiety and PTSD worse, and all of us, whether we have PTSD or not, can fall into these traps.
What complicates these thought traps for people with PTSD is the physical reactions with these thoughts, and the strong urge to suppress. This is why I urge those struggling with PTSD to reach out to qualified and licensed medical and mental health clinicians in your area. Don’t do this alone. You don’t have to do this alone. Your body and mind have suffered enough. There is relief, support, and help.
U.S. Government National Center for PTSD:
- Website: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/
- Helpline for Veterans: (800) 273-8255
For non-military you can text the Crisis Text Line:
- Text CONNECT to 741741
For Children and Teens Call:
- Boys Town National Hotline (800) 448-3000
Shared below are traps to recognize so you can start the recovery work and reach your full potential.
Here Are 10 Thought Traps that Keep You Stuck:
Taking the negative details and magnifying them while filtering out all the positive aspects of a situation.
2. Black and White Thinking:
Thinking that we have-to be perfect otherwise we are a failure. Not seeing any of the middle ground, shades of grey, in a situation.
Coming to a generalized conclusion based upon a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, expecting it to happen over and over.
4. Jumping to Conclusions/Mind Reading:
Believing we know what someone is thinking, feeling, or going to do.
Expecting something negative no matter what. Magnifying with ‘what if’ questions.
Believing that what others do or say is directed at them, often leading to comparing ourselves with others.
7. Control Fallacies:
Being a victim because ‘everything’ is out of our control or assuming all of the blame because we are in charge of ‘everything.’
8. Fallacy of Fairness:
Applying a measuring ruler against every situation to ‘judge fairness’ resulting in negative thoughts.
Denying anything is wrong when your body and mind are reacting.
Unrealistic expectations of our own or others’ behaviors based upon internal or external mistaken beliefs.
Have you overcome any thought traps using tips that did not get mentioned above? If so, please share your experiences with us in the comments sections below.