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What is PTSD?








First of all, you’re not crazy. People often ask me this when they first come in for an assessment, and it makes me sad. In fact, I object to the term “crazy”. It’s not a real diagnosis, and it’s pretty negative. And that’s not how we’re going to think of you. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or Syndrome) is a normal response to extraordinary circumstances. Something has happened in your life… You’ve risked your life in a war zone or on a fire rig, day after day. Or you had an abusive parent or adult figure or spouse or partner in your life, and you never knew when they would hurt you. Or maybe you were in a very bad car accident, or were held up at gunpoint, or witnessed a horrible crime. In all of those situations, you were unsafe, and your mind had to figure out how to get you out, alive. It learned that living on high alert could help you to weather the storm. So you learned to watch for danger very closely so that you can avoid danger, and to always be aware of your surroundings. And since you’re here and reading this now, that must have worked.


The problem is that now that the danger is over, your mind doesn’t know how to turn off those responses that helped you to survive. You can’t stand down. Certain things in your environment may remind you of what happened, and that can still make you very upset. Or you can’t get thoughts and memories of what happened out of your mind. It probably feels as if you’re never going to be free of these symptoms. But you can learn how to live differently.


Sometimes, when people come to me, they tell me that they want to forget what happened to them. I tell them that we can’t forget the past; but I can teach them to learn how to live differently with those memories and triggers. Treatments such as Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) can help you to work differently with your thoughts, so that they lose their power. Prolonged Exposure (PE) can help you to learn to tolerate your triggers, and thrive. STAIR and TRiGR can help you to learn how to self-soothe in ways that are helpful, communicate better with people in your life, and help you to work through guilt. And Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy can give you the skills you need to work through depression, and to successfully complete the other types of therapy.


If you have more questions, I’m adding some links to more information, below. Or, if you feel you’re ready, give me a call and make an appointment, or a 15-minute consultation.


National Center for PTSD

Decision Aid

Sad man in a brown chair, in a brown room.
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