I have been watching the recovery of the Floridian building collapse with great sadness. It reminds me so much of April 1995 in Oklahoma City. I was in Oklahoma City during the time of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building. A friend of mine was a police officer and a first responder to the tragedy. He told me of other first responders who continued to have a hard time with what they witnessed and were later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One of the first understanding of PTSD came out of World War One when soldiers were diagnosed with “shellshock” after experiencing on going anxiety reactions to the trauma of war. The trauma would come back to the soldiers in the form of a nightmare of flash back. The anxiety reactions interfered with relationship and work and the day to day of life.
Humans react to life threatening experiences (i.e. surviving war combat, or a sexual assault) with fight, flight or freeze. Scientist have discovered that severe experiences of trauma and or long-term exposure to trauma can change brain chemistry and this in turn can contribute to port-traumatic stress. People who have survived a traumatic event which has been outside of their control and are experiencing emotional problems could be experiencing PTSD.
We all react to trauma differently and everyone processes the events of trauma differently. If emotional reactions continue beyond a month, then it is important to look at the symptoms and see if they point to PTSD. Does the trauma keep coming back in the form of nightmares or flashbacks or images? Are you easily startled or have a hard time sleeping? Are you feeling numb or detached? Are you having a hard time falling asleep or easily angered? Are you having problems with relationships and or work; functioning in daily life? The individual symptoms do not stand alone as indicators of PTSD but may be a sign it is time to talk with a mental health professional about how the trauma is still affecting you.
PTSD can be treated with therapy and medication. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a kind of psychotherapy that has been successful in treating PTSD. Utilizing “bilateral stimulation” EMDR helps a person process the trauma instead of being stuck in reliving it.
Recovery from PTSD can happen. When clients can talk about the trauma with out feeling very up set or numb and are able to feel safe and are able to function better in day-to-day life, then the client is on the road of recovery.