When we hear the term “PTSD” (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) we automatically think: War Vets, medical first-responders, victims of violent crimes and experiences. But have you ever stopped to think that a form of PTSD can also affect anyone, even the average guy or gal who never served in combat or witnessed a traumatic scene or experience?
I am going to refer to this experience as ‘PDE’, or Past Distressing Experience because rightfully so, I cannot call it a Disorder if it is not diagnosed or diagnosable by a doc. Secondly, I hate the word “disorder”. It holds entirely too much power than it deserves.
I recently discovered that PDE can affect anyone, at any time and for a variety of reasons, not just violent traumas. Let’s first think about trauma and what it means.
Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
Can suddenly losing a job be a traumatic experience? Of course it can. Can being left with nowhere to turn and no money in reserves be a traumatic experience? Absolutely. The trauma can affect our entire state of well-being. We rely so much on our jobs for emotional and financial security, stability, identity, provision, future plans, the roof over our heads, food in our refrigerators and warmth. Imagine what it feels like when this is suddenly taken from us without warning. Can this not cause a devastating effect, a deeply distressing and/or disturbing experience? Of course it can.
There aren’t any terms or words for those who experience trauma in our lives. We aren’t given permission to grieve or process trauma when we go through it unless it’s “real trauma” or horrific.
Who gets to slide the scales on what’s traumatic enough to be called PTSD? Dr. London says it best in his article relating to PTSD-like symptoms:
I have seen a fair number of cases where people had symptoms that masqueraded as anxiety and depressive disorders, but when we explored the historical events in a person’s life, these symptoms could be traced to milder traumatic or unpleasant experiences than are not normally associated with PTSD. And yet, their symptoms were exactly those of PTSD. In my experience, a milder traumatic event does not necessarily lead to a milder set of symptoms.
PTSD (or PDE) can happen to anyone, and for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s essentially a huge loss of any kind that rocks your life upside down. You may suffer a major loss and disruption of lifestyle, or even the betrayal of trust, or the loss of a relationship. We can all experience trauma from shock, betrayal and loss in many different forms and from different sources, whether a job loss, a death of someone close, a house fire or bankruptcy, walking in on a cheating spouse or seeing something horrific that continues to haunt us.
The emotional impact can be the same.
If you are not sure if what you’ve experienced, or what you are currently experiencing is PDE or PTSD, here are some of the signs:
Having recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, upsetting thoughts, or memories; feeling distressed when you’re reminded of it; having physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or sweating when it comes to mind; irritability, jumpiness, angry outbursts, or difficulty sleeping; or feeling distant, negative, or uninterested in activities you used to enjoy.
If you are experiencing trauma from a loss, or job loss, I encourage you to give yourself permission to grieve and feel whatever shock, pain or loss you feel. Talk to someone (a friend, relative or professional) about how you feel and work through the difficult feelings.
In time, it will pass and you’ll come out on the other side with a lot more clarity and wisdom from the experience.