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How can we bridge the gap between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Growth?

Post-traumatic growth or benefit finding refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. Growth does not occur as a direct result of trauma, rather it is the individual's struggle with the new reality in the aftermath of trauma that is crucial in determining the extent to which posttraumatic growth occurs. Characteristics of PTG include greater appreciation of life, changed sense of priorities, warmer, more intimate relationships, greater sense of personal strength, and recognition of new possibilities or paths for one's life and spiritual development.
In contrast to resilience, hardiness,optimism, and a sense of coherence, PTG refers to a change in people that goes beyond an ability to resist and not be damaged by highly stressful circumstances; it involves a movement beyond pre-trauma levels of adaptation


So how can we help those who have suffered trauma find a path that leads to growth and how can we prepare people, young soldiers for example, that will likely experience trauma to lessen the effects of PTSD?

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    May 1 2014: The starting point involves challenging the very insecure and macho attitude that "being tough" means burying one's emotions, one's empathy, fear, shock, pain and any other emotion that might show vulnerability or compassion. This is where the seeds of PTSD are planted, nurtured and brought to fruition.

    Your absolutely right that there is real personal growth to be found when one has a safe, non-judgemental venue for the expression of such emotions.

    But there is absolutely no way that any military organization is going to tolerate such a venue because emotional expressions can easily result in emotional vulnerability. Emotions such as crying and caring and empathy for "the enemy" and fear of dying and a host of other realities that cannot be tolerated in a hostile environment. They cause distractions, lead to self-doubt, cause friction, result in a ongoing sense of being surrounded by threats and can lead to dissent between those giving orders and those supposed to respond to those orders without question or hesitation.

    It is disgraceful that our military does not honestly address the inevitable result of PTSD in their troops when they are rotated back home and where the need for support services is so great.
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    May 6 2014: Hi Jacob. I believe that the first step would be to recognize the early signs of PTSD. The earlier we identify them, the better chance we have of overcoming them and finding that growth. Next, we need to remove any negative stigma that goes along with it. I have heard many negative comments about people being "crazy" after serving in war. This stigma may prevent them from discussing the problems they are having with a professional or even their loved ones. We need to send a clear message that there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. Once we do that, many will get the help that they have been denying themselves for a long time.

    Now as far as a victim of crime, or of trauma or major illness, I can speak from experience that many survivors hear over and over how lucky they are to have survived, or to have pulled through a major illness. That does not make the trauma of the event any less real. One way of dealing with the issues of post-traumatic survival is joining a support group or giving back in some way, such as volunteering so that we feel validated about being a survivor. There is such a thing as survivors guilt, which is what happens when you lived through an event, while others died - for example a car accident. In this case, a very specialized therapy is in order, and sometimes the guilt prevents the person from asking for any help. In that case, the family or friend must step in and convince the survivor that they are worth getting the help to deal with their feelings.
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    May 1 2014: PTSD and/or PTG can take many forms and can from many sources, combat, illness, abusive childhood or marriage, injuries, death of a love one; so I really doubt there is a one size fits all preventative or solution.

    I guess some would say I have PTG from my MS, and I know many with MS that get stuck in what I call the “Why Me!” phase and that could be considered PTSD. Where I decided to look inward and approach each symptom/hardship as a lesson and not as punishment. I can’t say that there is any one reason I grow instead stressed, likely a combination of factors.

    Although I did not need it Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter, it has worked wonders for many with PTSD.
    And really the right games can help, by building self-confidence of the players.

    also hearing stories like Janine Shepherd’s powerful story, can really help.

    on military PSTD, I have to wonder what is the rate of PSTD with full time military vs. reservist . I’m think in addition to how wars are fought, the over reliance on reservist is also a major factor in the sharp increase in military PSTD.
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    May 1 2014: i don't know, i don't understand soldier ptsd, from the time you're young you know horrible things happen in the world. And you know what you're getting into when you enlist.

    Have you achieved post-traumatic growth?
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    May 1 2014: Hi Jacob,

    Whether a trauma-crisis triggers PTSD or PTG depends largely on a person's individual attitude to forced-changed-circumstances; and to life in general. This relates to their belief-system and the bigger picture of life that they hold.

    If the full extent of the opportunity for growth (in consciousness, psychologically & spiritually) and the mechanics of turning fear and disaster into fuel-for-life were understood better, then I guess that would help close the gap.
  • Apr 30 2014: "..  how can we prepare.. young soldiers.. to lessen the effects of PTSD?" Remind them that people get bored and that males get more bored than females and that the young get more bored than the old.