What is complex trauma?

A counselorssoapbox.com video by David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

What is complex trauma?

Not everyone who experiences a trauma ends up with a mental illness. Some traumas are easier to heal from than others. Researchers have described a condition called complex trauma which is a subtype of PTSD and more difficult to heal from. This video explores what complex trauma is and the signs and symptoms someone with complex trauma would experience.

Could you have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

A counselorssoapbox.com video by David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Could you have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness caused by exposure to stress. It is similar to some other trauma and stress are related disorders. People with PTSD may also experience several other mental illnesses. What are some of the signs and symptoms of PTSD? How would you know if you were experiencing PTSD?

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Would you know PTSD if you experienced it?

PTSD is something that we hear a lot about, but most people have only a general idea what it involves.  PTSD was first recognized in returning military veterans. It has since been recognized in children who were abused, in cases of domestic violence, as the result of sexual assaults as well as the result of other traumas. While each case of PTSD is unique, they have many features in common.  Many people with PTSD may also have one or more other psychiatric disorders, some of which are likely the result of traumatic incidents. Below is a list of the features that professionals use to identify PTSD.

PTSD involves a specific trauma.

Something has happened or there was a high risk it would happen.  This trauma involved death, possible serious bodily injury, or a sexual assault. This event needs to happen to you or someone close to you, not just be something you saw on the television.  This event was either violent or sudden and unexpected.

Also included in the definition of a trauma below, are the effects which dealing with the incident has on first responders or other emergency personnel.

This traumatic event keeps forcing its way back into your life.

Part of PTSD symptoms are the recurrent memories of the event.  You may have nightmares about what happened or things connected to that event.  Some people with PTSD experience spacing out or dissociation.  You may also experience flashbacks and in these times it can feel like the event is happening again.

These recurrent intrusive memories are easily triggered.  Both internal triggers, thoughts and feelings, and external triggers, people, places, and things, may bring back the memory.

People with PTSD try to avoid reminders.

There are all kinds of ways to avoid being reminded of something that has happened. You may avoid going to certain places or events. People may turn to drugs, alcohol or other distractions.  They may try to avoid having feelings, or other thoughts about the incident.

Sometimes the brain does this job for you.  You may find that there are periods of time for which you have no memory. Some people describe this as having a blackout or amnesia.  They may avoid activities which are in any way connected to these unpleasant memories.

Behavior changes when you experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

People with this disorder often become irritable and angry.  They may become either self-destructive or reckless.  Part of this condition is having an exaggerated startle response.  In the aftermath of the trauma, people may develop poor concentration and impaired sleep.  Someone with PTSD may stop engaging in activities that used to be fun, they detach from others and may say that they just can’t feel happy.  These behavioral changes are also characteristic of depression, and the two disorders often occur together.

PTSD can cause cognitive changes.

In the aftermath of trauma, it is common for people to blame themselves.  They may tell themselves that if they hadn’t been there, or had been more careful, it would not have happened.  Negative thought patterns may develop.  People begin to feel bad about themselves, other people, and the future.  These cognitive changes can result in developing depression.

PTSD needs to last a while and not be something else.

This condition is expected to last more than a month after the stressor.  As with the other things we are calling a mental illness this needs to interfere with your ability to work or go to school, your relationships, your enjoyable activities or cause you personal distress. Otherwise, you may have the issues but you will not get the diagnosis. If the only time this happens is when you are under the influence of drugs or medicines or because of some other physical or medical problem we’re likely to think this is something other than PTSD.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching, and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

For more on this topic see Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. 

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

What is an Adjustment Like Disorder? (F43.9)

Is it Anxiety, Stress or PTSD?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Stress person

Stress.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Just how stressed out are you?

Everyone experiences a little stress in their day-to-day life.  Having anxiety in your life is considered just a part of modern life.  But sometimes that stress and anxiety overwhelm people.  The things that get called trauma come in all shapes and sizes.  Many times these traumas resolve in a short period of time.  Traumas that don’t resolve, that hang on for long periods of time and interrupt your daily life, can turn into a serious mental illness such as an anxiety disorder a stress-related disorder or even Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

If you’re struggling with difficulties, anxieties, stress or even some traumatic events it is helpful to know just what kind of problem you’re dealing with.  Some things will sort themselves out on their own.  Other times anxiety, stress, and trauma need professional help.  Here are some of the problems that you might be experiencing and some thoughts about how to tell the different problems apart.

Stress.

Stress is that reaction the body has to challenges from the environment.  Stress can be small and repeated or large and dramatic.  Even good things can be stressful.  That first day on a new job can be full of stress even when you really want that job.  Many people get sick the first week on a new job.  Weddings or the birth of a baby can be stressful also, even when these have been something you have looked forward to.

Most of the time people have stress and it goes away.  But over time people can accumulate a great deal of stress, and this can result in physical, emotional and mental illnesses.  One very important life skill is learning how to manage and reduce stress.  Take a look at the other posts on counselorssoapbox.com about stress and stress management.

Animals get stressed and so do people.

Humans are not the only creatures to get stressed.  Animals in the wild can have a very stressful life.  Sapolsky wrote a very interesting book called Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”  The main difference between humans and animals seems to be how they adjust to stress after it has come and gone.  Animals who were stressed returned to a low-stress state very quickly.  Humans get stressed and years later they are still experiencing that stress.  For humans, this accumulation of stress over time can result in chronic illnesses.

Anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal human response.  But when it gets out of control it can become a disease.  If you’re in a dangerous situation, anxiety and even fear can help you stay safe.  If the volume on your anxiety is turned up too high, it can cause you to overreact to many everyday situations.  Sometimes people have what they call anxiety attacks.  For a brief period of time, they feel excessive anxiety but eventually, these anxieties attacks subside.

When this high anxiety continues too long and begins to interfere with your daily life, your job, or your relationships, it is excessive and may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.  There are a number of different recognized Anxiety disorders depending on the particular features of your anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a diagnosable mental illness.  Sometimes in life people experience overwhelming traumatic experiences.  They may witness a violent death, a tornado, hurricane, or other natural disasters.  In these events, the person may fear that they or someone close to them is going to die.

This condition was originally identified in the veterans returning from war zones.  It has since been identified in civilian populations who have been exposed to traumatic events and feared for their lives.

As a result of this trauma, people begin to develop difficulties functioning.  Some people will struggle with these problems for a short period of time, a month or so.  Other people will very quickly return to normal function.  In some cases, as a result of these traumatic experiences, people will continue to have symptoms for years afterward.  These continuing symptoms may be PTSD.

Complex trauma.

Repeated traumatization becomes more difficult to heal from.  There has been a good deal of research and writing about a condition that is sometimes called complex trauma.  While it’s not an official diagnosis, is helpful for many people to think about it this way.  Someone may be able to experience a trauma and recover from it.  If that same person experiences the same trauma repeatedly, each time it becomes more difficult to recover.

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress or PTSD consider getting professional help.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

How Stress destroys your health.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Stress person

Stress.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Your body stores up stress and then makes you sick.

Most of us know the effects that stress can have on our mental health but few people notice that the way they feel emotionally is affecting their physical health. We use that same word “feel” for both sensations in the body and emotions we attribute to the mind. This leads to lots of confusion. Your mind, by which most people mean their thinking, is not all that separate from your body.

What you think about can take its toll on your physical health.

Physical symptoms are often the first indicators of a serious mental illness. It is smart to get your health checked out by a medical doctor. Having physical illnesses that are caused by stress or trauma does not mean you are going crazy and it sure does not mean that your problems are “all in your head.” Your body participates in everything your mind experiences.

When we say someone is a pain in the neck, take that literally. That unpleasant experience has caused your neck muscles to tighten. That person who makes you sick to your stomach really is affecting your digestion. So if you have seen a doctor and they can’t find anything medically wrong with you, consider getting some emotional help.

Here are some of the physical signs and symptoms that you are under too much stress or that your feelings are signaling your body they need some attention.

Appetite changes reflect feelings.

Can’t eat? Constantly hungry? Changes in appetite that are not connected to physical activity and caloric needs are a common indicator of an emotional crisis. Changes in appetite along with a loss of pleasure are at the top of the list for symptoms of depression. Loss of appetite can signal an anxiety disorder. Relationship issues and all manner of other stresses change your appetite.

Sleep responds to emotions.

Sleep, too much or too little is another mental health indicator. Sleep changes are a feature of depression. Low need for sleep or not sleeping at all and having plenty of energy could be signs of Bipolar Disorder. Just because you have not been diagnosed with Bipolar in the past is no reason to ignore this. Many people have had only episodes of depression and the blues before that first big manic break.

Aches and pains can be from stress.

Stress impacts your nerves and your muscles. One study reported that more than half of those with Fibromyalgia also met criteria for PTSD. Living with lots of stress or trauma extracts a price from your nervous system. Do not wait till your nerves quit to get that stress under control. While thinking things away will not cure physical illnesses alone, what you do about that stress can affect the course of your physical illness.

Cravings signal something is going on in your feelings life.

Cravings for foods could be a nutritional deficiency but it could also be the warning sign of depression coming. Craving for behaviors or chemicals are hallmarks of addiction. While most behavioral addictions have not yet made the list of recognized mental illness, counseling is helpful if you find yourself craving things that could be harmful to your health or your life.

Loneliness can cause or be caused by emotional issues.

Feeling lonely or emotionally needy is a sign that your feelings life is in need of help. You should not hesitate to get assistance for emotional cravings. Loneliness is a recognized cause of relapse for substance use disorders. What is often missed is that feelings of loneliness and neglect can be triggers for mental and emotional disorders.

Lowered resistance to colds and flu may have an emotional cause.

Depression, Trauma, and stressor-related disorders all lower your resistance to illness. Happy people have more resistance to physical illness and are more resilient to emotional letdowns. If you are having trouble getting over a physical illness, take another look and see if your emotions need mending also.

Temperature regulation – sweating could be anxiety or panic disorder.

Sweating and poor temperature regulation has been connected to anxiety and stress-related disorders. Learn deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness. Cut back on the high rumination diet and see if your body does not stop sweating things.

Out of willpower – procrastination? Is it caused by stress?

Lack of energy, low willpower, and a general malaise are all signs of emotional disorders. Depression and anxiety are the chief suspects here but other mental disorder can result in low motivation and a lack of willpower.

Irritable – low blood sugar – the two are connected.

Low blood sugar makes people more irritable and leads to anger and conflict. The opposite connection can exist. Poor emotional regulation can play having with your efforts to regulate blood sugar and other hormones. Make sure you are taking care of your emotional health and see if that does not help you improve your physical health.

Panic happens more often when you are stressed.

Panic may be appropriate if they are shooting at you or if the lion is hunting you. Panic in the sense of a sudden mobilization of effort. But if you are having panic attacks on a regular basis, if the setting on your anxiety or panic meter is turned up way too high, your emotions are going to create a lot of physical symptoms that will not respond well to the doctor’s prescription of medication.

Is emotional stress having an impact on your physical health?

Anxiety

Depression

Emotions and Feelings.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD)

PTSD & Stress

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Support Groups for people with PTSD or Complex Trauma.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Group.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Anyone know of support groups for people with PTSD?

This question came in from a reader. They were specifically asking about local support groups here in Fresno. I did not come up with much and so I thought I would offer a few suggestions and then ask those of you out there if anyone else knows of any other resources.

Unfortunately, most of my suggestions may not help the person who asked the question, the resources are limited.

1. Try on-line groups.

I am familiar with some groups or communities on the internet. More and more the specialized groups are becoming self-help or peer-run groups on the internet.

One, in particular, is Trauma and Dissociation which is a Google+ community. You have to have a google+ account to access this but opening an account is easy and free.

You can also try the WordPress Blog: http://traumaanddissociation.wordpress.com/

2. Larger insurance providers may have something to offer if you have private insurance. Kaiser for one has offered some groups. Can anyone add to that list?

3. Your insurance provider may be able to refer you to a private therapist and some few of them specialize in PTSD an even smaller number may offer group formats.

4. If you are in substance abuse recovery some A.A. and N. A. groups, while not specifically devoted to people with PTSD can be supportive places for people in substance use recovery who have PTSD or another mental health issues also. Check out the group and make sure you feel comfortable with them before divulging the details of things other than the official topic.

5. VA has some groups and more likely to come in the future as so many veterans are returning from multiple deployments with PTSD and the related MST (Military Sexual Trauma.)

6. Those people who are receiving services through their local Community Mental Health Department should check with them for available groups. In Fresno County, if you have no insurance there are county-run programs for those on Medi-Cal and those with no or very low-income.

It remains to be seen if these groups will be expanded. Personally, I think specialty groups for people with specific issues can be especially powerful. I anticipate that as more people become eligible for services in the government-run systems we will increase the number of groups run by both peers and professionals.

Any other suggestions?