Thursday, 09 June 2011 06:40

Helping Those Who’ve Been Labeled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Written by  Henry Beaulieu
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Do you know someone who experienced tragedy or trauma associated with the tornadoes of April 2011? Do you have a military service member in your family who has rotated in and out of Iraq or Afghanistan? Have you been through a terrifying situation which was beyond your ability to control, where you believed life and limb was at stake, and where, at that time, there seemed to be no resources available for help? Does it seem to have changed you, or the person you’re thinking of, in a harmful way?


The change I’m referring to may come on suddenly or gradually. A person may find that he’s always on edge or gets frustrated and angry at the smallest provocation. In fact, this person walks around angry and can’t figure out why he’s angry! His job or normally appealing activities no longer have any fulfillment. He rarely sleeps through the whole night; instead nightmares of the experience seem to be taking place more frequently.

If it’s you, you find that you and your spouse argue a lot, you don’t connect with your children very well anymore, and it seems that no one can really understand what you’ve been through…..except maybe some folks you know who have been through the same experience. It makes it worse when people who’ve said they care about you (Ex: folks at church, extended family and friends, etc.) seem to show little or no interest in what you went through; it may be hard to talk about your experiences, but it makes matters even worse when no one even asks you to tell your story!

The thing that bothers you the most are the times you start crying for seemingly no reason. You could be at work, at home, out with people or at a sporting event, and out of nowhere, an intense feeling of sadness or grief overcomes you and you can’t hold back the tears. You think, “This is so embarrassing! Am I going to be like this for the rest of my life? Maybe I’m gong crazy.” And if you think about the dread of losing emotional control for too long, you may even begin to consider suicide as a viable alternative to living in your present condition.

If this chain of events and reactions seems familiar to you about yourself or someone about whom you care, that person may be struggling with what’s commonly called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). By virtue of its description, all people with PTSD have lived through a traumatic event. The person had a genuine reason to fear for his life, saw horrible events, and believed himself to be helpless in regards to those events. Researchers say it isn’t clear why some people develop PTSD and others don’t. Yet, they believe that a person’s likelihood of developing PTSD depends on many things.

These include:
• How intense the trauma was or how long it lasted
• If the person lost someone he was close to or he was hurt
• How close he was to the event
• How strong his reaction was
• How much he believed he was in control of events
• How much help and support he got after the event

As a Nouthetic Counselor, I can readily appreciate much of the observed data that has been amassed on people who struggle with PTSD. In it I see a reoccurring pattern of responses that the Bible readily recognizes and addresses. Rather than using PTSD as a label, I prefer to define what I do as providing Biblical Help for Those who Struggle with Intense Fear, Worry, Anger, and Grief as a response to Trial (Trauma).

I always tell my counselees exactly what type of counsel I can provide (it isn’t psychologically-based or clinical in nature, but rather Bible-based): “I can show you Biblical principles and methods for working through the fear, anger, and grief you are experiencing. But the consistent application of truth and the effectiveness of application is directly tied to whether you are a Christian.” At this point, some folks I’ve counseled said they wanted help but from a nonreligious or therapeutic base. As a care giver, I would work very hard to find someone to provide help to the person even if I couldn’t. However, in many cases, counselees say, “Give me what you’ve got!” And that’s what I tried to do.

Specifically for the person who is struggling as a result of an intense and/or prolonged trial, the answer to this problem is relatively straight forward. A person’s prolonged and unchecked fear, grief, or anger in response to traumatic and stressful events is typically the result of the counselee failing to think about himself or the event in a manner that is biblically accurate. Having stated the problem in a straight forward and clear manner does not mean that the problem is an easy one to overcome; the battle for victory in this area may be very intense to say the least.

For example, many combat veterans indicate an intense desire for others to understand their experience, as well as know what they felt in a traumatic moment. Some of this intensity of desire may flow out of an inordinate desire for safety. If it’s a controlling and obsessive desire, it will ultimately lead to sinful thoughts and actions toward others “who were not there.” These incorrect and often sinful responses many times result in a range of symptoms which typically disrupt life and tempt the veteran to believe that continuing with normal life is all but impossible.

If you find that your traumatic experiences tempt you toward inappropriate levels of fear, anger, and grief, the answer will come down to learning to “reprogram” your conscience in accord with biblical truth. Current secular counseling models would never tell you that your ongoing responses, when outside of the event itself, may be sinful. Remembering and accepting this truth will give you hope which is based on truth: You are not a victim! Further, real change is possible.

With the help of the Holy Spirit and God’s word, your conscious can be reprogrammed. Next month, I’ll address some of the good help God gives to the believer who has experienced trauma.

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