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PSTD: The body remembers

The Fourth of July – the celebration of our nation’s independence and, for many a time of revelry. If you’re like many Americans, at the beginning of July you were engulfed in the festivities – parades, cookouts, and fireworks – an abundance of fireworks! According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, in fact, on July 4th, 2016 alone Americans detonated more than 285 million pounds of fireworks! The rockets red glare, indeed.

 

But for our nation’s veterans, the celebratory screech, squeal, and explosion of seemingly innocent fire and light may be anything but innocuous – for the 5.2 million Americans who experience PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) during the course of a given year, the distant echo of a neighbor’s target practice, the backfire of a car, or the tell-tale rat-a-tat-tat of an annual fireworks display may be cause for terror.

 

As defined by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), PTSD entails the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor wherein there is perceived or actual threat of serious injury or death, the witnessing thereof, or the exposure to the threat of such injury to a close associate or family member.

 

Fight or Flight

 

Have you ever heard of the “fight or flight” response? Think back to the last time, for example, you haphazardly stepped into the crosswalk of a busy street, only to be narrowly missed by a distracted driver. That racing heart and shaking hand that occurred only milliseconds after your faulty step? That’s the fight or flight response kicking in to save you. Biologically designed to protect us from harm, the instantaneous activation of the parasympathetic nervous system in a time of trauma either mobilizes or freezes the individual in an effort to save life and limb. In most instances, this response is “shaken off” after the initial trauma. However, in instances of PTSD, the individual becomes caught in a perpetual trauma loop, psychologically (and physically) re-experiencing the initial trauma whenever triggered by an associated occurrence.

 

Are you at risk?

 

Symptoms may include:

 

Flashbacks (Re-experiencing the initial traumatic event)

 

Nightmares

 

Recurring thoughts

 

Avoidance of associated stimuli

 

A Helpful Hand

 

PTSD is not relegated to veterans of war, however. In modern society, with the potential for violence ever more present in daily life, occurrences of PTSD have soared, effecting approximately 8% of adult Americans each year, including victims of car accidents, robbery, natural disasters, emotional and physical abuse, traumatic injury, and more.

 

You are not alone! The key to understanding PTSD is the realization that the symptoms you are experiencing are your mind and body’s normal reaction to an abnormal and extraordinary event. Guided by the expert and compassionate care of the highly trained practitioners and psychotherapists in PROS Miami’s referral network, we will illuminate for you the light at the end of the dark tunnel of trauma.

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