Thursday, January 20, 2011

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Motherhood: Recognizing the Signs

With my son, at the beginning of our own
healing process, in 2008.

This week's post on Breathing In This Life is from Michelle Rosenthal, of

Being a mom is a wonderful, magical and inspiring identity. But what if the birth experience – or some other trauma – leaves you feeling less than covered in fairy dust? What if your parenting skills are being interfered with by symptoms and behaviors you don’t understand?
Real or perceived traumatic experiences during childbirth or any other part of a mother’s life can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Post-Partum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PP-PTSD). 

Here are a few facts about PTSD before we define symptoms and what to do about them:
·         70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.
·         Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD.
·         An estimated 5% of Americans have PTSD at any given time.
·         An estimated 1 out of 10 women develops PTSD; women are about twice as likely as men.
·         Among people who are victims of a severe traumatic experience 60 – 80% will develop PTSD.
·         Almost 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD. Somewhat higher rates of this disorder have been found to occur in African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans compared to Caucasians in the United States.
·         PP-PTSD affects 1-6% of women who have difficult births.
The good news is: PTSD is an entirely treatable condition. Because PTSD and PP-PTSD can be frequently misdiagnosed as Bi-Polar Disorder or Post-Partum Depression, it’s helpful to recognize PTSD symptoms, and even have tools to begin diagnosing yourself. The more self-empowered and proactive you are about your experience the more quickly you’ll find help, and relief.
Signs of PTSD
Symptoms of PTSD are divided into three categories:
1 – Re-experiencing: This cluster of symptoms includes intrusive thoughts (you can’t stop thinking back over the traumatic experience), feeling like the event is happening again in real time, nightmares and flashbacks.
2 – Arousal: These symptoms focus on a constant need to ensure safety, including heightened sensory activity, hyper vigilance, insomnia or difficulty falling asleep, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating and exaggerated startle response.
3 – Avoidance: This behavior includes avoidance of people, places, things, conversations and experiences that remind you of the traumatic event, plus a feeling of detachment, the inability to have loving feelings, and a diminished interest in participating in important activities.
How do you know if these PTSD symptoms accurately apply to you? Take this PTSD Self-Test to begin forming a picture that you can share with  your physician or mental health professional.
The most important and immediate action is to talk about what you are experiencing. Open up to someone close to you and explain what’s troubling you. The longer PTSD goes untreated the worse it gets; recognizing and treating it as soon as possible are critical to lessening your experience of it.
Treating PTSD
There is no single, universal treatment for PTSD. Modalities range from the traditional talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy, to the alternative, including somatic experiencing, information processing, hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Trauma leaves an enormous imprint on the subconscious mind. Because of this, most survivors find it helpful to combine traditional PTSD treatment modalities with alternative PTSD treatment techniques in order to find relief.
While there is no set procedure and no standard recovery period, the opportunity to overcome PTSD exists for everyone. The process usually involves trying different therapeutic techniques to find what resonates and feels most comfortable with you. The most effective healing work will be achieved in a modality that feels safe, guided by a practitioner with whom you feel confident and secure.
Michele Rosenthal is a Self-Empowered Healing Coach and the founder of, a site for PTSD information and support. A trauma survivor who healed after more than 25 years of PTSD, Michele now devotes her career to helping others learn to clarity, verify and strategize their PTSD recovery. Her PTSD memoir, BEFORE THE WORLD INTRUDED, will be published in September 2011. Currently, she is launching the very first live virtual PTSD support groups.

No comments:

Post a Comment