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“Will I ever be the same” (Part 2)

A syndrome called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect victims of sociopaths. The trauma of losing love, friends, family, possessions and of enduring psychological/physical abuse is the cause of this disorder. To fight the symptoms of PTSD, it is helpful to understand the symptoms and how they relate to loss and trauma.

As I read through the current literature on PTSD, I quickly discovered that there is a fair amount of controversy regarding this disorder. We can actually learn about the disorder by listening to the arguments. The first question on which there is much disagreement is, “What trauma is severe enough to cause PTSD?” There were several editorials by experts disparaging the fact that everything from giving birth to a healthy baby to a boss yelling at an employee is now said to cause PTSD. Most experts are in favor of reserving this diagnosis for people who have suffered truly unusual life experiences, like kidnapping, rape, war, 911, etc.

The problem is that many people do experience severe stress reactions to difficult life circumstances. It remains to be determined what we should call these reactions.
Those of us healing from our relationship with a sociopath often vacillate between accepting the trauma and minimizing it. Thus, the argument about what kinds of trauma are severe enough to cause PTSD has a direct effect on us. The argument can leave us feeling weak, like we should be able to get over this. After all it wasn’t as bad as 911, Iraq or Katrina—or was it?

The second question is “what symptoms constitute PTSD?” The following table shows the most common symptoms seen in a group of 103 British men and women diagnosed by psychiatrists with PTSD (Current Medical Research Opinion, 2003):

Symptom Frequency (n=103)
Insomnia 98 (95%)
Anxiety at reminder cues 96 (93%)
Intrusive thoughts, images, sounds, sensations 94 (91%)
Irritability 93 (91%)
Poor concentration 93 (91%)
Diminished interest in significant activities 88 (85%)
Recurrent dreams of trauma 86 (83%)
Avoidance of activities or places associated with the trauma 85 (83%)
Foreshortening of expectations about the future 80 (78%)
Detachment from others 78 (76%)
Avoidance of thinking or conversing about the trauma 75 (73%)
Poor appetite 69 (67%)
Hypervigilance 55 (53%)
Startle reactions 46 (45%)
Acting or feeling as if the event was recurring 37 (31%)
Inability to recall parts of trauma (amnesia) 19 (18%)

I put up this table because I thought that a number of you would also endorse these symptoms. Notice that “acting or feeling as if the event was recurring” was really not that common. But similar symptoms, like “Intrusive thoughts, images sounds and sensations,” were very common. Amnesia was also uncommon. Startle reactions were only seen in half of the subjects.

A feeling of a foreshortened future is a particularly debilitating symptom because it impairs a person’s ability to plan for the future and leads to a sense of hopelessness. I will expand on this further, but I strongly believe this feeling of a foreshortened future has to do less with our thoughts about our past, and more with our thoughts about our present.

As I look at this list of symptoms, I am struck by the fact that many, many of those writing into Lovefraud complain of these symptoms, particularly nightmares. There is something special about having had emotional involvement with an aggressor that seems to produce nightmares. Since so many have all of the most common symptoms, I think it has to be that the trauma of life with a sociopath is severe enough to cause this disorder in many people.

Here’s where defining exactly what trauma is gets sticky. Rachael Yehuda, Ph.D., said in a recent article published on MedScape, “One of the things that biology has taught us is that PTSD represents a type of a response to trauma, but not the only type of response. It is a response that seems to be about the failure to consolidate a memory in such a way as to be able to be recalled without distress.” Well, this is precisely the definition that is too broad. I personally have a lot of memories that I experience or re-experience with distress. Yet these memories are not accompanied by the list of symptoms in the table above.

For me what made the experience traumatic was the truly life course-changing nature of the trauma. The answer to the question, “Will I ever be the same?” for me defines trauma significant enough to cause PTSD. The trauma that causes this disorder redefines us in a way that is different from other emotionally significant experiences. This trauma strikes at the core of our identity.

The final controversy surrounds the treatment of PTSD. Interestingly, there is no question that medications (SSRIs, particularly Zoloft) are very helpful. The problem is though that when a person goes to a physician and receives a medication, he/she is by definition “sick.” Assumption of a “sick role” or “victim identity” is one of the many factors that slow recovery from PTSD.

Many therapists are of the belief that “debriefing” or retelling the story is necessary for recovery. One group of researchers reviewed the studies on debriefing and concluded that there is no scientific evidence that it prevents PTSD. Instead, the evidence points to post-trauma factors like social support and “additional life stress” being most important.

How can we put this all together? Considering last week’s post, those who experience trauma serious enough to have stress hormone overdose as manifested by dissociation, are likely to also develop PTSD. An examination of the symptoms of PTSD reveals that at the core of the disorder is the fact that the person really doesn’t believe in his/her heart that the trauma has ended. PTSD is about ONGOING, not past, trauma. For those of us whose lives were assaulted by a sociopath, there is ongoing stress. The stress is the social isolation, financial ruin, and threatened further losses long after the relationship has ended. Those who recover from this without PTSD work hard to put the trauma behind them in every way.

Putting the trauma behind you does not mean you can’t take medication to help with the process. It does mean facing those bills, former friends, and other personal issues you want to avoid. Remember AVOIDANCE STRENGTHENS FEAR.

Above all, stop the ongoing trauma by ending contact with the sociopath. Do not assume a sick role, instead, work to stay healthy. Fight to be the person you want to be. Don’t allow this single experience to define you. Make living for today the place you love to be. As Louise Gallagher says in her recent post, “This is, in many ways, the greatest challenge of recovery — to accept the past is simply the route I took to get to where I am today, a place I love to be. The past cannot be changed. It cannot be altered. It cannot be made ‘better.’ It can only be accepted so that it, and I, may rest in peace with what was, eager to accept what is true in my life today.”


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637 Comments on "“Will I ever be the same” (Part 2)"

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Alivetoday, gentle hugs to you. I have MANY moments of backpaddling, believe me. Last week, I was in a funk of despair and defeat and I allowed it to affect everyone around me to the point where a dear and supportive friend burst into tears and told me that I was behaving like someone else he had known who had committed suicide.

Some days, I take three steps forward. Another day, I might stand still. Another day, I might stumle backwards. But, at the end of the week, I will be a monkey’s uncle if I am not at least one nanometer forward than I was the previous week!

We al heal at our own rates, Alivetoday. Sometimes, I don’t even WANT to heal! Sometimes, I just want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head, and wake up a decade later. But, I know on an academic level that such a desire or wish isn’t possible. I have obligations and there are people who are depending upon me to do my job. There are people around me who need support, too.

I am so grateful for this site and every survivor that posts here. Each and every one of you is helping me to survive and recover. I have SO much to be grateful for, this morning. Brightest blessings, everyone.

Thank you for posting this. A lot of times I feel like when I talk to others about what happened and how I feel and how I am trying to recover, I am beating a dead horse. There is just a disconnect with people who have not experienced a relationship with a sociopath.

I know I have come a long way in my healing process, but there is still a long ways to go. I want to heal, but it’s exhausting to do the work. I feel like a burden to those around me like my family and close friends that have seen me go through this because it’s heavy on them. I know I have people that care about me, but it’s a lot to absorb. Which is why us survivors need help, we are trying to absorb it too.

I struggle with wondering if I will ever be the same since I do suffer from some pretty extreme PTSD symptoms to even have me hospitalized. All I know are those reactions are not normal and I have to find out what is going on and how I can manage them.

I have a restraining order against my ex spath but he is allowed to contact me when in regards to my daughter. Today when he emailed me he was attempting to manipulate me and immediately I became fearful. I was exposed to mental, emotional and psychological abuse in the relationship I had with the sociopath and just a quick email sent my mind whirling. It triggered anxiety, confusion, questions and tears just with one sentence in the subject line of an email. I know that is not normal. I know that before the sociopath, these reactions never happened.

Anyway, I just wanted to say the same things happen to me. Some days I feel like I have made huge improvements and been strengthened and other days I feel like I haven’t moved at all.

But I guess what I keep holding on to is I do not have to be susceptible to him anymore because now I have the knowledge to fight it and have established almost “no contact.” For that I am grateful and I am grateful for this site.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

thank you witty. xo one joy

(((((One joy))))). I wish you a peaceful healthy sleep and a quiet night. And for tomorrow I wish you a better day!

There is only one way to heal from a sociopath
and that is QUARANTINE.

Unfortunately for me I got the raw end of the stick by
getting dumped.

So I guess its not my “privelege” to dump her but
a necessity.

Whatever the case may be, to quarantine a predator is
better than pursuing a predator.

Sebbo, if you are reading this please keep the above comment in mind. If you or your heart tells you to get
in contact with the spath woman – please dont.
You know there is only 1 result and that is a restraining order.
Please please do not contact her at all.
You contact her – you’ll have police at your door.
I’m just warning you for your safety.
Never take the threat of a restraining order lightly.
Especially if she works in corrections as you say.
You really dont know how dangerous this situation may
become should you decide to step over that boundary.

No contact can be lonely but what is the alternative?
You really have no other choice.

Best Regards
Tony

one/joy_step_at_a_time

(((libelle))) thank you. 🙂

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