Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD is the inability of the human mind to process traumatic memory. It remains fragmented and left to haunt the person through various triggers and arousals that return to the person to the original trauma. Emotions remain raw and the individual is trapped in the past and it repeats itself.
The first step to recovery is to confront the trauma and begin the long and sometimes painful process of properly storing the memory and integrating it, good and bad, into one’s life narrative. The process to dismiss the past, face it and integrate it can be difficult. The trauma is very difficult to face but for those who take the initial steps to confront and learn new coping methods to deal with PTSD, the rewards are a return of one’s very own existence and life.
Treatment is key. Professional counselors can help individuals through a series of treatments. One type of treatment is Cognitive Restructuring. Cognitive Restructuring helps the individual integrate dissociated memories with associated ones in the long term memory. Part of the process is to remove unproductive ideas and ideals that limit the mind to restructure and keep arousal high. Functional thoughts can help remove higher arousal, while dysfunctional thoughts prevent the individual from healthy integration. It is not the activation to think about the trauma that causes the consequence of arousal but more the dysfunctional thinking that causes more arousal.
Automatic thoughts that enter into oneself about the event can be good or distorted. There are 13 types of distortions to thought that can make overcoming PTSD very difficult. These distortions need corrected so that the brain can properly integrate the traumatic event. This blog will review the 13 types of distortions.
- Flaw Fixation. This distortion forces the individual to only focus on the bad. It is a camera lens that only sees one aspect of the full event. It is a narrowing of all the facts of the story. The individual only recalls the failures of the particular day, or only in the present sees bad in everything.
- Dismissing the Positive. Very similar to the Flaw Fixation but this does not focus on flaws of the individual but any positivity in life itself. Only negative is viewed in day to day life and if the event was during a particular period of time, all the other good things of that time period are dismissed based on the one bad event.
- Assuming. Individuals assume certain things about an event. In Mind Reading, they assume others think negative about them and how the individual acted or what the individual experienced. Also within arousal, Jumping to Conclusions is common. The individual assumes any trigger is an actual threat. Finally, Fortune Telling, predicts negative outcomes only with any future events. Everything is predicted in a negative light in lieu of the past traumatic event.
- Catastrophizing. Individuals make any events based off the past trauma to be worst than they what they truly are.
- All or None. In this, the individual rates himself only as good or bad. Furthermore, other people are seen only as good or bad. There is no gradation or grey area in this type of reframing
- Shoulds. In this, the individual relives what he or she should have done or did not do. This does not take into account the objective reality of what occurred and places everything on the individual.
- Making Feelings a Fact. Feelings are important to listen to but sometimes they can distort and make things appear different than reality.
- Over Generalization. Individuals assume everything is bad or “ALL” people are out to get them. It comes from a lack of security but closes individuals to healing.
- Abusive Labeling. The individual sees oneself as damaged. The person does not differentiate the evil and bad between the action committed and oneself.
- Personalizing. The individual asserts to much blame for the traumatic event that the person is guilty of or not guilty at all
- Blaming. The individual blames the event for destroying one’s life more than the event did. It is the opposite extreme of personalizing.
- Unfavorable Comparisons. When one compares to how others would react instead of oneself. This can lead to anxiety and regret. Instead of focusing on the event and how one dealt with it.
- Regrets. This is similar to “shoulds”. Instead one looks at all the circumstances and holds one guilty to the event instead of healing from it
These type of distortions can create a mixture of emotional reactions that prevent the person from seeing the trauma correctly. One either sees the event incorrectly, others, or oneself. This does not allow one properly process it with the truth of the matter and hence integrate it into one’s life. It is important to understand an event and process it. Distortions prevent this hence in counseling and reframing of the event, it is important to discuss these issues and identify a patient who may possess a distortion. Of course the only way to know if a distortion exists is for the individual to open up about the event and confront it.
If you would like to learn more about AIHCP’s Stress Management Consulting Program or AIHCP’s Crisis Intervention Program, then please review the programs and see if they meet your academic and professional goals. The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in these two disciplines.
Source: The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery and Growth by Glenn R. Schiraldi, PhD