For nearly forty years, my best friend lived with the symptoms of PTSD: hyper-vigilance, sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, rage, dissociation, depression, obsessive-compulsive and self-abusive behavior, avoidance and isolation, and a fixation on suicide.
Much of her life was a horrific struggle that spiraled slowly downward over the years. But she never sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The simple reason is that–like many other people who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, she didn’t really believe her problem was PTSD.
For years she cycled in and out of rehab centers, counseling programs, eating disorder clinics, and through various forms of counseling.
She clung tenaciously to her faith, hoping and praying for healing, but always wondering if she was the only unfixable person in the world.
Then three years ago, she sought trauma treatment through an intensive ten-day program that changed her life. Today Wanda spends much of her time speaking about hope for healing from PTSD.
People don’t seek treatment for PTSD for a number of reasons, many that can be addressed.
They don’t believe they have PTSD. But the truth is that nearly 10% of the population struggles with PTSD. For assessment tests, check our Resource page.
They don’t believe treatment will help. Many people with PTSD have spent years treating their symptoms (addictions, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, self-harming behaviors, eating disorders, hoarding, etc.) and not treated the underlying trauma. Treating symptoms can often be ineffective until the underlying cause is addressed. So it’s easy for people with PTSD to feel like they are “unfixable.”
They feel shame. Brain illnesses carry a stigma. Many people feel like admitting to a brain illness places them in a category of the population that they do not want to identify with.
They don’t know where to start. Begin by talking to a licensed, trained traumatologist who understands the distinct challenges of PTSD and treatments.
They don’t have the resources. Sometimes people just don’t have the emotional energy or support to address their pain. They also may not have financial resources to seek treatment. If this is the case, explore community mental health options. Many urban communities are moving toward trauma-informed care.
For anyone struggling with PTSD or the people who love them, the starting point is education. Find out about symptoms and treatment options. Join a support group online or in your community. Talk to your physician. Take an assessment. And never give up.