Stephanie L. Miner is a licensed clinical social worker and has been an employee of LDS Family Services for over 20 years. Here, she shares with us information on how to better understand and cope with PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is when a person has experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others and the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
Hard times and traumatic experiences will likely happen to us all at one time or another in our lives. President Ezra Taft Benson said: “When will all these calamities strike? We do not know the exact time, but it appears it may be in the not-too-distant future” (“Prepare Ye,” Oct. 1973 general conference). It is important to be spiritually and emotionally strong before a traumatic event to help improve recovery after the event. Even if you typically do pretty well in life, a traumatic event can really cause problems. This isn’t a sign of weakness but rather a manifestation of the level of the trauma.
When a traumatic event happens, talking with a trusted family member, friend, or Church leader is a great way to process feelings and emotions. Writing down feelings can often help the healing process. Immerse yourself in Church service. Ask for a priesthood blessing. President Uchtdorf has said that “those who suffer or grieve find healing here” (“Come Join with Us,” Oct. 2013 general conference). Avoid the traps of addiction, isolation, doubting faith, and negativity. Turn toward Christ. Elder Neil L. Andersen has counseled us that “faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision” (“You Know Enough,” Oct. 2008 general conference).
Sometimes the healing process can be slow. Symptoms of PTSD typically last for more than a month and usually begin to appear within the first three months of trauma. Not all symptoms have to appear for one to experience PTSD.
PTSD symptoms are typically manifested in three categories:
Remembering upsetting thoughts
Physical responses, including increased heart rate, sweating, and hyperventilation
Making an effort to avoid thoughts, feelings, people, or places
Having trouble remembering key parts of the trauma
Feeling distant from others you normally like to feel close to
Struggling to feel positive feelings of love and happiness you normally feel
Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
Feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger
Being jumpy or easily startled
Dealing with difficult events is not a new phenomenon, but what may be relatively new is the label we have given our responses to these events. The Lord knew we would experience difficult times, and He has promised that during these troubled times, He is with us. In Doctrine and Covenants 98:1, the Lord says, “Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks.”
Most people experience some of the symptoms of PTSD after a traumatic event; however, if the symptoms last more than what you think would be a reasonable amount of time (between days and weeks) or are significantly interfering with daily functioning, then talking to an licensed counselor may be helpful in the healing process.