PTSD and the Soul Survivor
A Soul survivor is anyone who has severe emotional trauma over a long term and or traumatic brain injury as a result of abuse, natural disaster or fire, combat experiences, battery, crime, car accident, oppressive government, living in a war zone, and molestation or rape. According to the American Psychiatric Association DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) the diagnostic criteria for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) includes:
(1) Persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event (e.g., dreams, flashbacks, or other intrusive recollections; intense psychological distress and physiological reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resembles an aspect of the trauma).
(2) Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (e.g., avoidance of thoughts, feelings, activities, places or people; diminished interest or participation in significant activities; feelings of detachment or estrangement from others; restricted range of affect and sense of a foreshortened future).
(3) Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (e.g., sleep disturbance, irritability or anger, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response).
(4) Duration of the disturbance is more than one month (or onset of symptoms is delayed beyond six months); the disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
These symptoms are often associated with “experiencing, witnessing or confrontation with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.” And the person’s response involves “intense fear, helplessness, or horror.” Additionally these events are usually “generally outside the range of usual human experience” Such as continually being called upon to make split-second, sometimes “life or death” decisions that, in many cases, have no favorable resolution.
What Are Some Possible Symptoms of PTSD?
Difficulty “letting go” of the event, or dwelling on “what if?”
Having sudden memories (“flashbacks”) of the traumatic event or reliving the event in your mind, even if you don’t want to
Nightmares; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Sleeping more than usual
“Survivor guilt” (feeling guilty for surviving and event when others didn’t)
Feeling emotionally overwhelmed, or having emotions get out of control
Flying into rages; frustration
Lack of interest in usual activities or hobbies; apathy
Withdrawing from family, friends, or coworkers; not wanting to talk
Feeling emotionally detached, “shut down”, numb, or unable to relate to others
No interest in sex
Being irritable, jumpy, “on guard”, “wired”, or unable to relax
Feeling insecure around friends; feeling uncomfortable in crowds
Not wanting to be touched
Suddenly crying or crying frequently
Avoiding things that remind one of the traumatic experience
Feeling fearful or being afraid to leave home; panic attacks
Increased conflict with others
Difficulty concentrating or remembering things; poor attention span
Difficulty making decisions or solving problems
Reading something over and over again, but still not understanding it
Feeling like your going crazy
Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts
Depression may also be present (feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, changes in sleeping or eating habits, difficulty making decisions, lack of energy)
Soul Survivors can come from any walk of life but generally are found in the law enforcement and military professions. Additionally police officers and soldiers suffer additional stress from trauma, because they are looked to for strength and bravery and as a result do not seek the help they need. “The police socialization process molds him/her into a myth of indestructibility. The effect of trauma on this myth is devastating” according to Jenn Andrus in “Psychotherapy Interventions II” at Appalachian State University.
A traumatic event at work can alter a police officer’s ability to perform duties associated with work, and personal lives, dramatically. These individuals, who are looked upon to keep communities safe, have to come to terms with the fact that they too, are vulnerable. This in itself can be a devastating realization. Couple that with the stress that is already commonly associated with anyone who goes through a traumatic event, and you have a sometimes deadly combination.
The 147 police suicides, in 2011, should be enough evidence, that better mental health care for our officers is direly needed. It’s an especially prevalent number when you consider the fact that the number of officers lost in the line of duty was 164.
That means we are losing almost as many officers to their own anguish, as we are to the dangers associated with the said profession. While it may be difficult to prevent violent crime and losing officers in the line of duty, preventing suicide should be much easier. There are proven methods for the diagnosis and treatment of depression. Depression is often caused by PTSD, and it seems reasonable to assume that with better diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, we could prevent severe depression, and eventually suicide.
There are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment and out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get “minimally adequate” treatment (RAND study). 7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
But it’s not just law enforcement and veterans who suffer with the reality of PTSD; anyone who has gone through physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, and or threats of violence in any situation in which one partner is wielding power over the other repeatedly can all fall under the umbrella of domestic abuse.
The United States Office on Violence Against Women (the O.V.W.) defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” Jones & Horan, 1997 and Bohn & Holz, 1996
The OVW reports that a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the U.S. and Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in this country. Every day, at least three U.S. women are killed by their partners.
According to the report “Women, Domestic Violence, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)” by Margaret J. Hughes and Loring Jones, “The severity of the violence, the duration of exposure, early-age onset, and the victim’s cognitive assessment of the violence (perceived degree of threat, predictability, and controllability) exacerbate the symptoms.” This report also found that women who resort to taking refuge in shelters as a result of domestic violence are at a higher risk for PTSD than other victimized women. In any given shelter, they found, 40-84% of the residents are victims of domestic violence.
Being abused by someone who should be trustworthy and nurturing leads many women and even some men to feel abandoned, betrayed, and insane. And because abusers often exacerbate the harmfulness of their abuse by refusing their partners access to adequate medical and psychological care – and even withholding such care as a further form of abuse – it is often extremely challenging for victims of domestic violence to escape the cycle of abuse. So sadly extracting oneself from a domestic violence situation can be extremely challenging. If you feel you fall into this category just remember life is short so why waste it by in staying in relationships with those who don’t have your best interests in mind. Step out of the cycle and into the road of recovery.
Healing soul survivors seeks to standardize the treatment of these disorders and reduce the stigma connected to suffers of PTSD through the use of innovative noninvasive alternative therapies including, acupuncture, meditation, homeopathy, hypnotherapy and more.
Why alternative therapies?
PTSD is a diverse disorder and requires a diverse treatment. The pentagon has spent at least $5 million researching yoga, meditation, and animal companions as treatment for PTSD.
Acupuncture is a widely regarded, yet still largely unknown treatment for PTSD. In the study, “Acupuncture for post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled pilot trial,” by physicians Hollifield M, Sinclair lian, Warner TD, Hammerschlag R, they concluded; “Acupuncture may be an efficacious and acceptable nonexposure treatment option for PTSD.” Jillian L Capodice LAc reports in her article “Acupuncture and [PTSD]” that 14 out of 16 patients self-reported reduced symptoms, in a non-clinical trial.
Additionally Army psychiatric specialist, Col. Charles Engel, revealed that some early research seemed to imply that when soldiers with PTSD were treated with acupuncture, “improvements were relatively rapid and clinically significant.” Obviously there’s a lot of research to be done in order to discover the efficiency in which PTSD can be treated by acupuncture, but the need for research into this option is evident.
Use of mantram repetition, which is a form of meditation, also seemed to indicate a successful impact on relieving the symptoms of PTSD. As part of the “Veterans Health Administration Office Of Patient Are Services Technology Assessment Program” Elizabeth Adams, MPH, put together an article entitled “Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” The article suggests that use of mantram repetition; saw 86% of the program participants report a “moderate to high satisfaction. The article concluded “Mantram is a promising, complementary intervention for treatment of PTSD in older Veterans, and Veterans were satisfied with the program. Further research in larger RCTs is warranted.”
Angel Morrow’s was an Army Sgt. who worked on the front-lines as a medic. She saw a heart-breaking amount of death, but when a fellow soldier she had treated for PTSD, took his own life outside her office door, she began to suffer from the disorder herself.
“I did everything I could for him,” she recounts.
After suffering from severe unrelenting PTSD symptoms, that didn’t respond to medication, Morrows tried a different approach. Her approach was named Bianca, a pit bull who weighed in at 70 lbs.
“She was that little buddy I needed,” Morrow stated. “She gave me that sense of purpose I was lacking.”
There are countless other stories of pets helping ease the symptoms of PTSD. Helping a police officer or soldier from suffering the symptoms of PTSD, is well-worth the cost of training and providing a service animal.
While there are still plenty of naysayers when it comes to alternative treatments of PTSD, there’s enough research that indicate success. Additionally, homeopathic remedies show some benefit as well and may become a more common place treatment for PTSD. The more research that is conducted, the more options we have, and the better chances we have to help our officers, veterans, and soul survivors on the path of wellness and recovery. So please help us make this possible by volunteering, or by making a donation or by joining our cause.
If you like to learn if you have the symptoms of PTSD please click here for the free online test.