Memories are a part of life - sometimes they are the thing that makes life worthwhile and can bring great comfort. However, sometimes they are like a den of snakes under the back porch of the mind, curling and ready to strike when least expected. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) is the scientific name for traumatic memories that flare up and create problems in coping with everyday living. These memories can be triggered by a smell, a sound, a face, a song or any number of things. Walking down the isle of a grocery store I can smell a whiff of shaving lotion or hear a song and suddenly be transported to a different place, a different time. Everybody does this. When it becomes a problem is when the memories are disturbing and interfere with normal functions by creating anxiety or emotional pain.
While most people think PTSD is only a problem for Veterans, it can actually happen to any one. Children who have been abused or witnessed abuse, battered spouses, floods, fires, car accidents, war. Anything that creates a fear of eminent death can generate trauma. Even people who watch too much TV violence or see something horrifying on the news. Unfortunately our society and very often our families have a great investment in ignoring trauma and pretending that only weak people have difficulty with emotions stemming from hellish experiences. Adults in war and children from abusive homes have a mandate to "suck it up" and do the best they can to survive without making waves. The hard thing about trauma is the jolt, fear, shock and revulsion coupled with feelings of being helpless and trapped in a situation they can do nothing about. The aftermath is extreme anxiety.
The effects of trauma include angry outbursts, avoidance, depression, sadness, withdrawal, drinking, drugging, suicide ideation, withdrawal, insomnia, emotional numbness and feelings of extreme loneliness. If this is happening to you or someone you know, reach out. Help is available.