PTSD: Symptom-Free Doesn’t Mean Problem-Free

Posted on 06/25/15 02:31:pm

Chad Wetterneck, PhD
Clinical Supervisor, Cognitive Behavioral Specialist

People who have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often subjected to intense reoccurring anxiety concerning a traumatic event they experienced or witnessed. Sometimes, individuals living with PTSD feel an overwhelming shame about their persistent fears.

PTSD often causes an individual to numb their anxiety regarding their specific event; however, when a person tries to numb their emotions, they have no control over which ones they can deaden. In effect, a person desensitizes all of their emotions— including joy, compassion and love. When a person does this to their emotions, it can have a detrimental effect on any relationships they may have in their life.

Over time, friends, family and partners may find it difficult to connect to their loved one who appears to be emotionally unresponsive and the relationship can even fade away. If a person with PTSD does lose many of their previously stable relationships, the isolation can be devastating to their support system and behavioral health.

Given the stigmatizing nature of many traumatic events (e.g., sexual assaults, combat-related losses or harm) many people develop a strong sense of shame. Living with shame for an extended amount of time may feel the need to shield their emotions from loved ones or their medical professionals. The lesson here is: just because a person’s anxiety may appear to be healed, their wellbeing could still be in danger if they feel ashamed about their actions or experiences. For this reason, a patient’s shame should be taken just as seriously as their psychiatric symptoms.

At Rogers Memorial Hospital, our PTSD partial hospitalization program offered at the West Allis and Brown Deer locations is cognitive behavioral therapy based and emphasizes prolonged exposure, which allows patients to devote equal portions of their time toward reducing their symptoms and defining meaning in their lives. By defining meaning in their lives, we mean that patients are discovering their own values and actively pursuing them. A patient’s values and goals could be based in their career, family, romantic relationship or an array of other facets of their lives.

What is important is that patients and their psychiatric team are investing their time in the correct areas that will help promote a patient’s self-love and reduce personal shaming tendencies—making life worth living.

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