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Editorial

Marriage and Family


Will I Ever Be Happy Again? Recovering From Trauma



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04/01/2007 - Will I ever be happy again? This question goes through the mind of nearly every individual who has suffered a major trauma in life. There are at least two kinds of trauma according to Wikipedia: 1) Physical Trauma: an often serious and body-altering physical injury, such as the removal of a limb or 2) Psychological trauma: an emotional or psychological injury, usually resulting from an extremely stressful or life-threatening situation. Of course, psychological trauma is often a side effect of physical trauma but may occur independently as well.

A psychological condition that is associated with trauma is known as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). According to Dr. Michael Lyles1, over 50% of all people will experience some type of trauma in their lifetime, but only about 20% of these individuals (or 4% of the general population in any given year) will develop PTSD. Trauma can be the result of living through a natural disaster, a life-threatening incident ( such as rape, sexual or physical abuse, war, an automobile or airplane accident, a threat to one's life with a weapon, etc.), or witnessing any of these kinds of events happening to or being perpetrated on another person. Recovering from trauma with or without PTSD can be a long and painful ordeal. It is important to seek help in dealing with trauma in our lives because it frequently causes impairment in our abilities to be successful in our personal lives and relationships as well as in our abilities to perform our job responsibilities.

Factors that Increase the Risk of PTSD

There are several factors that increase the likelihood of an individual developing PTSD. First, the severity of the incident(s) affects the risk factor. People who have been held captive and tortured have the highest risk for PTSD (over 50%), followed by rape (49%) and severe beating (31%). Other events or incidents that produce a higher probability for PTSD include sexual assault, serious accidents and injury, being shot or stabbed, the unexpected death of a friend or loved one, a child's life threatening illness, witnessing serious injury to another person and witnessing a natural disaster.

Symptoms that Help Identify PTSD

In her article entitled "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder"2, Melissa Slagle has identified the following symptoms:

Troubled sleep, including nightmares

Jumpiness, being easily startled

Difficulty concentrating or paying attention

Apparent carelessness in ordinary tasks

Feelings of anxiety, fear and concern for safety

Inability to get rid of unwanted thoughts

Inability to get rid of mental pictures

Outbursts of irritability or anger, without reason

Feelings of depression, loss, or sadness

Feelings of overwhelming hopelessness

Feelings of being helpless or out of control

Feelings of guilt for not suffering as much as others

Profound self-criticism

Distressing thoughts or images

Isolation, not wanting to be with or talk to other people

Hyper-vigilance, overly alert to surroundings and happenings

There are other symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and some of these symptoms can be the result of other conditions such as depression, generalized anxiety, and other psychological disorders. However, if you or someone you know has been through a particularly traumatic event and is experiencing some or all of these symptoms, it would be a good idea to seek professional counseling and/or a psychiatric evaluation.

Next, I want to look at the ways to cope with trauma and PTSD and how you can help someone you know who is experiencing this condition.

Michael Lyles, "Trauma & PTSD: A Clinical Overview", Christian Counseling Today, Vol.11, No.2, 2003.

Melissa Slagle, "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder", Christian Counseling Today, Vol.7, No.1, 1999.

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