August 16, 2010

Without experiencing trauma, how can I understand what life with PTSD is like for my friend or loved one?

Larry, a friend of the blog on facebook, posted the following on the Understanding PTSD facebook page.  I thought it was well-stated so I wanted to include it in this post.
You're right many people don't understand how this (PTSD) effects peoples lives. They don't understand how this affects someone’s life.

For those that don't understand, I ask them if they've ever been extremely frightened by something? I ask them to remember and re-experience that event. Re-experience this very powerful emotion in the moment!

Then I ask them to imagine what it would be like for them to not to be able to turn this off. To not be able to get away from those feelings they experienced in that moment. I ask them how they think it would affect their choices if they couldn't turn off or get away from these feelings.

Though they may have a hard time grasping the inability to get away from these feelings, as they have already done so. It becomes a physical experience that they can relate to. They can grasp how these powerful emotions can over rule conscious thought and logic.

Emotions are Very powerful stuff! When combined with the subconscious mind, they can dramatically affect your life! I get to see the impact this has on people's lives on a regular basis.

Having people like you willing to talk about it from your perspective helps greatly to remove the veil of misunderstanding for those that are fortunate enough to have never experienced this.

What seems like the obvious course of action, "just let this stuff go" to those that don't understand it. They don't understand why you won't "just let this stuff go". They really can't grasp the these negative emotions really are stuck! That you can talk about this until you are blue in the face, but these negative emotions remain stuck.
My pastor mentioned PTSD during his sermon yesterday and described it as being frozen in the moment of trauma that was the source of the PTSD.  Frozen and stuck are just words to attempt to illustrate the difficulty in just letting it go or just getting past it or just moving on.  There are invisible chains trapping or invisible walls blocking those who are living with PTSD.  I'm not saying this with a defeatist attitude.  There is hope for those living with PTSD.  I'm just trying to illustrate the level of difficulty that moving forward can entail for the person living with PTSD.

Breaking through these chains or breaking down these walls will not look the same for each person.  Depending on the severity of the PTSD, there may be several layers of chains or walls.  We are all very different individuals and the source of our PTSD is very different for each of us, therefore the method we use, the path we take and the journey we go through in healing will look very different.  Keep this in mind if you are walking this journey with your friend or loved one.

Please note some new features added to the blog since the last post.  
  • You can post a comment on each individual post or I have added a General Comments tab at the top of the page for comments not specifically related to an individual post.  
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Take advantage of these links to share the blog with others.  Thanks!

If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

If you recently submitted questions, please know I am composing blog posts in response and they will be published soon.  Thank you for your patience!


  1. I have just come across your wonderful website. Im hooked!
    i cant wait to keep on reading :)

  2. I just wanted to drop by and say hello. I love what you're doing here because even when you try to explain PTSD to people, it's very hard for them to understand without having experienced it for themselves.

    And people need to know so they can better support their loved ones with PTSD. Being alone and worse - feeling alone - aren't things that help us.

    I have most of my PTSD (caused by a single traumatic incident five years ago) under control now. Thank goodness for appropriate therapy! But I still deal with panic and anxiety attacks and deal very poorly with stress.

    Anyway... I'll be popping in from time to time. Cheers!

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