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Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist (who was also a Holocaust survivor) said, "An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior."  This can be true when talking about reactions to trauma.  A traumatic situation is often an abnormal situation.  That is, our brain cannot always connect why that event happened because it was so unimaginable.  These people often have reactions to such events that seem abnormal as well, at least to them.  People who experience post-traumatic stress often describe feeling like they are "going crazy."  While these reactions may feel abnormal, the traumatic experience itself was also abnormal.  In reference to Frankl's quote, this would be normal behavior.

How does PTS Relate to Military or First Responders?

Military personnel, members of law enforcement, and first responders are often put into situations that are abnormal.  That is, these populations are often put into situations which are life-or-death, which involve a great deal of risk, and/or which involve first-hand, repeated extreme exposure to traumatic experiences, pictures, scenes, or situations.

Signs of Post Traumatic Stress

While the following is just a list of signs that may occur when someone is experiencing post traumatic stress, it is not all-inclusive.  Having symptoms on this list does not mean you have a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Some of the signs that may indicate that you have post traumatic stress concerns may include:

  • recurrent dreams related to the traumatic event
  • flashbacks of the event (such as closing your eyes and having the event play out like a movie inside your head) or re-experiencing the event in other ways (for example, smelling a scent that reminds you of some detail of the event)
  • attempting to avoid thoughts, feelings, or memories of the event
  • a sense of blame (either for oneself or others) for the outcome of the event
  • isolating from others
  • not being able to remember details of the event
  • feeling like no one understands you because of the event
  • reckless or self-destructive behavior (can include excessive alcohol use, drug use, self-harming behaviors, excessive risk-taking)
  • hyper-vigilance (feeling as if one is "on alert" all the time or jumping when sudden noises are heard)
  • sleep disturbances (often due to the hyper-vigilance or the re-occurring dreams of the event)