Hope and Healing for PTSD

Life happens, right?  One day, everything can change in an instant.  We never forget those days, the events inscribed on our souls for a lifetime. 

I’ve had several of those days.  And like many, I’m good today.  For some of us, we bounce back, we move forward.  However, what if, despite your best efforts, your strongest will and determination, despite relying on your faith, knowledge, and skills… you don’t “bounce back”?  What if instead, a slow dismal spiral – with no end in sight – one that attacks your thoughts, overtakes your body with a racing heart, palpitations, trouble breathing, and overwhelming emotions ranging from irritability to outright rage?

What if you enter into a sadness and desperation so deep you cannot fathom your way out – and slowly you begin to feel disconnected from your life, like you’re on the outside looking in?  For millions of Americans, despite their strength, wisdom, faith and best efforts – this is a reality.  

PTSD By The Numbers

Some 70% of Americans will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, and of those, up to 20% will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD is estimated to impact more than 13 million Americans at any given time, or 8% of us at some point in our lifetime.  Would you believe that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men? And, sadly, it’s increasing in our children. 40% of children and teens will experience a single traumatic incident before their 18th birthday, and of those, up to 15% of girls and 6% of boys will go on to develop PTSD.  Let that sink in for a minute…our children are struggling with trauma.

We understand how our veterans are vulnerable to PTSD, but consider also the millions of civilians – health care workers, first responders, law enforcement personnel, social workers, and members of the clergy who suffer from PTSD after experiencing trauma. 

The “Invisible Wound”

Often referred to as an “invisible wound,” PTSD creates subtle yet devastating changes in our brain that decreases optimum brain function, resulting in what can best be summed up as a life-threatening battle.  PTSD-linked suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  Without help, the PTSD sufferer’s situation only worsens – overstressing the alarm center in our brain, changing the way we see the world, devastating our moods and decreasing our decision making skills. 

But it doesn’t have to.  No one, who has lived through a horrific experience, should ever have to live this way.

Trauma and Treatment

We have come a long way in our treatment of trauma over the past decade.  Neuroscience and genetic research have provided astounding advances in how we understand the brain and its development, our risk for developing stress related disorders, and brain functioning – and with that, so many advances in the way that we think about and treat stress-related disorders. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

I have the privilege of providing one of those advances in my work – I am a Certified EMDR Therapist (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  EMDR has been tested, and approved by top government entities in the treatment of PTSD.  Some studies show that up to 90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions, and that 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in as few as 12 sessions. 

There are many other advances in PTSD treatment: medication, neurofeedback, cognitive processing therapy, and body work.  Therapy has changed over the years; help does not involve “reliving” or “re-experiencing” a traumatic event or bad experience.  In fact, many of us avoid that and are trained to protect against it.

Get Help

The bottom line – if you or someone you love is suffering with anything that sounds similar to what I am describing – help is available. 

Please don’t go it alone.  Please don’t suffer. This has everything to do with brain structure and functioning, our physiology. Shame and judgement hold no place.  Help is available. 

I am thankful for all who serve, and especially those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. If pursuing those freedoms has made you suffer, please get help. Here’s to healthy brain functioning for all of us!

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For additional resources on this topic, visit LookUp’s Trauma Topic Page.

Written on behalf of the Regional Mental Health Coalition by Laura Hoffman, Clinical Director of Lutheran Social Services.

Laura Hoffman
Laura Hoffman

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Get Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of distress, please reach out to a mental health professional or get confidential, free support and text LOOKUP to 494949 or chat online here.

If you live in Indiana and need help finding a behavioral health provider, visit Find Help or call (800) 284-8439.

Start the conversation.  Silence the Stigma. 

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