The Latest Word on PTSD

“Post-traumatic stress disorder exists as a more common experience than many would believe,” explained alumna Haggard, LSCW, who specializes in the disorder. “Many PTSD clients, particularly those with a military connection, struggle to envision a future without symptoms. Many also report a feeling of guilt that if they allow themselves to ‘get better’ it would negate the sacrifices that they and their battle buddies made in service to our country. In some ways, the symptoms and subsequent suffering becomes the memorial to buddies who fell in battle. It is often said that combat-related PTSD is a spiritual or soul injury, though there is irrefutable evidence that PTSD is also a physical injury involving actual changes in the brain.”

Graphic of PTSD symptoms

Symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD is also a part of life that often goes under-reported. “The four primary symptoms of PTSD are first, re-experiencing symptoms such as nightmares, intrusive thoughts about the event, and flashbacks, and second, avoidance of reminders of the event, which therapists call triggers,” Haggard explained. “When a negative or traumatic event occurs, our brains record various unassociated details, such as the color of a car that hit you, in order to warn us if similar conditions exist. These unrelated details later become triggers for the third symptom, hyper-arousal, which is seen and felt as jumpiness, edginess, nervousness, anxiety, and often anger. Finally, there are negative cognitions, which the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists as another core symptom of PTSD. In large part, being ‘stuck’ in PTSD symptoms is about what the individual tells him or herself about the event.”

New research, according to Haggard, indicates a biological cause for multi-generational trauma symptoms. Research suggests that a possible change in RNA in the offspring of individuals diagnosed with PTSD could account for multi-generational trends in trauma symptoms.

PTSD workbook cover

PTSD Workbook.

To learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder, Haggard recommends the following books: 

The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms by Soili Poijula and Mary Beth Williams (New Harbinger, 2013).

The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth by Glenn Schiraldi (McGraw Hill Professional, 2009).

Once a Warrior—Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home—Including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI by Charles W. Hoge (Globe Pequot, 2010).

Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army by Kayla Williams and Michael E. Staub (W.W. Norton, 2006).