Living and Coping with PTSD

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD as it is usually abbreviated, is the after- effect of a shocking or horrifying experience that happens to someone. Nearly 25 million people in the United States are affected by PTSD.

A physical or sexual assault is a traumatic event that may lead to PTSD. A car accident, no matter how serious, can result in PTSD. A near drowning, falling off a ladder, rape, serious illness or death of a family member are some causes of PTSD. Being a victim of kidnapping or persistent bullying are other sad causes. Any kind of event or accident that causes trauma can bring about PTSD. Natural disasters, like blizzards, hurricanes, earthquakes, or volcanoes, can result in victims getting PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is sometimes experienced by those who witness a traumatic event. For example, a child seeing his or her parents in a domestic-violence relationship can cause lasting damage to the child. (

The US Department of Veteran Affairs reports that over 15% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars return home with PTSD. Being shot at, being ambushed, and seeing friends killed all contribute to the high rate of PTSD our troops exhibit.

Honestly, being shot at and seeing friends killed is sadly closer to home than Iraq or Afghanistan. At this writing, in less than a half year, there have been twenty-three school shootings. That averages to nearly one school assault per week. Can you imagine the number of children from kindergarten through high school and college that will suffer from PTSD because of these senseless attacks and killings? Some will be affected their entire lives. So, you see PTSD can happen easily, and no one is immune. It is devastating.

Effects of PTSD
PTSD affects its victims in many different ways, depending on the trauma and how a person relates to it. Here are some indicators of PTSD.

1. A simple fleeting thought, flashback, or haunting memory can start the heart racing, and set one into a “fight-or-flight” response. These isolated events may cause undue anxiety or panic even though the person is completely safe at the time. These overpowering emotions often occur when one relives an uncomfortable or stressful event.

2. Evasion is another symptom of PTSD. Avoiding people, places, or events related to the trauma is a way to shield one’s self from unbearable situations. Though this may seem like a good tactic for protection, it may lead to isolation and perhaps depression, which may cause additional problems.

3. Triggers can easily cause anxiety levels to soar. The sound of sirens can spark panic even though the person knows that he or she is safe. A book falling from a school desk can send a student fleeing because it sounds like a gun shot.

There are many additional devastating symptoms resulting from PTSD.
Depending on the event, one may feel guilt or blame. One may have tendencies
toward emotional outbursts. Sleep deprivation or nightmares often occur, which
not only affect emotional health, but can also cause havoc with physical health.

If you are unlucky enough to live with PTSD, what can you do? Unfortunately, no one has a “recipe” or a “one-size-fits-all” solution. It’s impossible. Every brain injury is different. Each comes with its own smorgasbord of problems. There is no prescription for PTSD. So, what can you do to lessen these debilitating effects? How can you live in this fast-paced world, with triggers everywhere?

Compensatory Strategies for PTSD
As the creator of the blog Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury ( and the radio host for “Another Fork in the Road” on the Brain Injury Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio, I have the opportunity to interact with many survivors and caregivers about their brain injuries … and I learn.

Here are some comments from survivors about how they deal with PTSD.

  • Get medical attention
  • See a therapist
  • Join an online or in-person support-group
  • Replace negative feelings with positive ones
  • Don’t let the past control you
  • Remind yourself that you are in control
  • Get a pet. Pets love unconditionally and can be a great support
  • Immerse yourself in an activity you love–something that requires complete attention (jewelry designing, reading, writing, gardening)
  • Listen to inspirational music
  • Try meditation
  • Change your surroundings (run an errand, take a walk)

How can you face or cope with PTSD? There’s no simple answer. Each survivor’s needs are different depending on the injury, but never give up! Survivors and caregivers can affect change. Become intensely aware of your triggers, and do everything to avoid them. If you are unable to keep away from triggers, have a plan or a strategy that you can implement immediately. By tuning into your needs, you can compensate – and hopefully lessen – the symptoms of your post-traumatic stress disorder. And, always, always hang on to hope.

The author is not a medical professional, so this article is not a substitute for medical advice. It’s simply offered to suggest compensatory strategies that some survivors use to cope with their PTSD.

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Donna O'Donnell Figurski
About Donna O'Donnell Figurski 4 Articles
Donna O’Donnell Figurski is a wife, mother, and granny. She is a teacher, playwright, actor, director, writer, picture-book reviewer … and, on January 13, 2005, became the caregiver for her husband and best friend, David. Donna had never heard of “TBI” before David’s cerebellar hemorrhage. Now TBI invades her life. Donna spends each day writing a blog, called “Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury,” preparing her radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” on the Brain Injury Radio Network, and searching for a publisher for her completed memoir, “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story.” But, Donna’s greatest job is caregiver to her husband, David. Donna's Blog: Donna's Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury Blog: Donna's Website: Donna's Brain Injury Radio Show