In this Huffington Post article, Wray Herbert, the author of On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits, outlines the findings of a Danish study of PTSD in soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. The findings indicate that the current view of the disorder may be wrong. There is compelling evidence suggesting that those who suffer from PTSD post-deployment were more likely to have experienced or witness family-related trauma in childhood. This is the first study of its kind that assessed soldiers before, during and after their tour of duty.
- Some participants showed PTSD and other mental health issues PRIOR to deployment
- Of those individuals, some demonstrated a REDUCTION in systems during their tour
- Many had an increase in symptoms on returning home
This article gave me a flash of insight into my own life. While I have never been in the military, I can relate to the findings. My career as a consultant gave me the opportunity to leave my family and country of origin for a period of time. I operated in a high-stress (though non-life-threatening) environment. I felt valued in my profession, supported by my community and engaged in a very active, driven lifestyle. I was free of most of my triggers for many years…. Strangely, I was able to use my dissociative behaviors, such as daydreaming, to help me form my life the way I wanted rather than just escape. The high-adrenaline life I was living mostly kept me focused on the here-and-now, there was no time to dwell on the past. The future was only about the next project, the next assignment, the next win.
When my career stalled as the result of a medical trauma, my anchors were gone. I returned to my family and slowly fell apart. PTSD grabbed me hard and refused to let go. The symptoms worse than ever before.
This article, this research gives me a bit of insight into why this happened… why it had to happen. I feel now that it was inevitable. PTSD was always going to get me, always going to demand my attention and healing, no matter what distractions life offered me.
I have often said that I had to fall into a million pieces before I would ever stop to pick them up.
One point about this article… it doesn’t really give an insight into WHY PTSD symptoms were worse for some of the study participants after they returned home. I will give my insight into my personal situation on this point. For me, the return home brought back all those feelings of worthlessness, vulnerability and threat that were repressed for so many years. Worse, it stole all of the feelings of worth, strength and control that I thought I had achieved while exposing me to my critical triggers all over again. Maybe that is why the secondary trauma was so devastating.