The Herald Bulletin

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Community

July 14, 2014

Overcoming fear and helplessness to fight PTSD

ANDERSON — Roxanne Brunsman helps people find monsters.

A clinical social worker and therapist, Brunsman has witnessed the long lasting and oftentimes debilitating effects of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"People tell them to buck up, buttercup," Brunsman said. "That is so disrespectful. You can't really compare pain — pain is pain."

She said minimizing the feelings of others especially after a traumatic event does not allow people to overcome the experience.

PTSD can occur after witnessing or experiencing something that was life-threatening and created a sense of profound helplessness or fear, Brunsman said.

"Their interpretation or belief is that their life or the life of others is on the line," she said.

Beth Cox, a licensed psychiatric social worker from the Anderson Center at St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, said anyone who has been through a traumatic event can get PTSD. She said examples include natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornado, flood, terrorism, domestic violence, rape, physical or sexual childhood abuse and even car accidents can cause the disorder.

PTSD is not a new diagnosis and people may have heard it formerly referred to as "shell shocked" or "railroad spine," Cox said.

Under the right circumstances, these experiences can create a unique type of terror that results in PTSD.

Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor with Community Health Network, said treating PTSD can be tricky.

"It is a treatable condition, but it takes experts to do it," he said. "It doesn’t go away right away and sometimes it takes several months or longer."

He said a combination of a person's genetic makeup, their resilience factors at the time, and the amount of time that has gone between when the event occurred and when the person came in for help makes a difference.

Some of the symptoms of the disorder include flashbacks where the person relives the trauma over and over, having bad dreams, avoiding places or events that remind the person of the experience, having strong feelings of guilt, depression or worry, being easily startled, having angry outbursts and difficulty sleeping.

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