Do you have PTSD?
There is much discussion lately about post-traumatic stress disorder as relates to the returning
military men and women from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I have also written about it
in previous newsletters. Almost anyone is vulnerable to PTSD if one has endured a highly stressful
and frightening experience. It is as if the person just cannot let go of the experience no matter how
much they want to forget it. The traumatic event is relived repeatedly in the person’s mind in the
form of flashbacks, recurrent images or thoughts, and dreams and nightmares.
In addition to anxiety, the PTSD sufferer may also be easily startled or feel jumpy, feel “on guard”
even in safe situations, have difficulty concentrating, feel easily irritated, and have trouble falling or
PTSD sufferers often try to escape their feelings and symptoms by avoiding places, people, or
situations that serve as reminders of the trauma, try to avoid any thoughts or feelings about the
trauma, become detached from people, start feeling emotionally numb, and feel hopeless and
helpless about the future.
If you or someone you care about may be suffering from PTSD, here is a simple questionnaire.
If you check at least 7 of the following items following a traumatic event it may be a good idea to
consult with a professional about treatment.
1) I have strong physical sensations (e.g. sweating, rapid heartbeat) when I think about the event.
2) I try to avoid having upsetting thoughts or having contact with things or places associated with
3) My feelings are numb and I have difficulty experiencing normal pleasure and happiness.
4) I am always watchful to make sure I don’t experience the same event again.
5) I have strong feelings of guilt associated with the traumatic event.
6) I have the feeling of being unreal or that the world is unreal.
7) I feel alienated or isolated from others.
8) I get irritated or angry a lot.
9) I have flashbacks of the event (feeling like the past event is happening all over again in the
10) I have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because memories of the event come into my mind.
11) I have memory difficulties and trouble concentrating these days.
12) I am easily startled when I hear a loud noise or when danger seems imminent.
13) I have been relying increasingly on alcohol or drugs to get through the day.
Quite often an anxiety disorder and/or depression has its roots in trauma.
If you know a soldier, or a member of a soldier’s family, struggling with PTSD or any of the family
and relationship problems that are a consequence of PTSD, please be aware of The Soldiers Project
(www.thesoldiersproject.org) where one can get no-cost counseling from a volunteering counselor or
psychotherapist (such as myself).
While there is a wealth of wonderful information and treatment programs for anxiety disorders
on the internet, there are also a few scams. My colleague David Carbonell, Ph.D., an anxiety
treatment clinician in Chicago, has uncovered a few of them. You can read about them on his
site www.anxietycoach.com/anxietyscams.html. As with so many things in life, if an anxiety
treatment program sounds too easy, or too quick, to be true, it probably is.
Buck is a movie playing in theatres right now. It plays like a documentary about Buck Brannaman,
the man behind the “Horse Whisperer”. This movie follows Buck as he goes from town to town
doing clinics for training people how to be with, and train, their horses. As Buck often quotes, “the
horse is a mirror to your soul” meaning who you are, and how you are as a person is reflected in
one’s horse, as they are exquisitely sensitive creatures. This is also Buck’s story; how his abusive
childhood formed the man he became. It’s a riveting story of healing and transformation, and a great
“The grit in the oyster is what creates the pearl”.