Laura Russell, Ph.D., Archive  

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Can PTSD still affect me? 

Q. I am 39 and when I was 9 I witnessed my father shoot my mother in our family home. I kept having lots of violent outbursts and ended in trouble for years with police. I received therapy from a well-known PTSD expert who diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder. Now I live close to where the murder took place in a home similar to the one I lived in as a child.

I find I am cracking up a lot, and wonder if I will be strong enough to live there. Can PTSD still affect me?


A. In one word, “Yes”. What you are describing in quite common with cases of PTSD.

At the time of your treatment, you did whatever de-briefing and counseling treatment you needed. This was probably based upon your circumstances at the time. Now, however, your circumstances have changed to include an increased exposure to aspects of your original trauma. This can easily explain your feelings of ‘cracking up’. 

In my opinion, while you feel quite badly, you are not really cracking up. What you are describing is commonly thought of as a flashback. Flashbacks come in several different versions, all of which are normal and, I believe, healthy.

Now, how can I say this awful experience is healthy? Let me explain.

Posttraumatic stress disorder has several groups of symptoms that involve re-experiencing your trauma. The purpose of reliving experiences is to eliminate your trauma, just like vomiting eliminates bad food in your gut. So your mind serves up your trauma in pictures, thoughts dreams, emotions and physical feelings.

These happen at many different times with different triggers. The trigger you refer to is as follows. Exposure to anything vaguely resembling your trauma can cause you to relieve your trauma. Living in a home similar to the one in which you witnessed your father murder your mother is quite a dramatic trigger. In addition, you are living in the same neighborhood! These combine to bring up memories, otherwise known as symptoms, of your trauma.

This just means you could benefit from additional psychological treatment for PTSD. In other words, it is time to grow again. Usually, people find that they can use these episodes and the therapy involved as a springboard to better and more empowered functioning.

When you have memories, if you can tell yourself that this is normal, you might be able to reduce your symptoms somewhat. At the very least, you can reduce your anxiety about your experiences.





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