- You experienced painful emotional or physical trauma in your family growing up.
- You’ve suffered emotional or physical trauma in one or more of your relationships.
- There has been an event in your life in which you’ve been threatened with such serious physical or emotional harm that it would be out of the range of what we consider normal life experience.
- Some examples might be living through war, witnessing an accident with loss of life or limb, experiencing rape or incest, or seeing your children suffer abuse.
- Whatever the trauma you’ve experienced, you tend to have “repeat performances” of this painful pattern in one relationship after another, one job after another, and so on. The painful pattern seems to replay over and over in your life like the movie Groundhog Day.
- You have thought patterns of terror, fright, panic, and edginess.
- You have a feeling that you might be hurt or harmed, or that someone might reject or criticize you.
- You believe you won’t get the help you need.
- You feel you’re incompetent to change the situation.
- You feel like you’re going crazy.
Body Symptoms of PTSD
In addition to the symptoms in the previous section, you may have these:
- Trembling and shaking
- Hot flashes and cold chills
- Numbness and tingling
- Nausea or a sick feeling in your stomach
- Pressure in your chest
- A pounding heart
- Cold sweats
- Shortness of breath
- A lump in your throat
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Feeling like you’re “out of your body”
- Feeling like you’re dying
You’ll find that trauma can rewire the brain, and if the above descriptions sound familiar to you, read on. You will have a whole host of solutions you can use with your health care team to create physical relief and emotional serenity.
DOLLY: ANXIETY AFTER A TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE
Dolly, 28, came to Mona Lisa Shultz, M.D., Ph.D. because her family was concerned for her after a traumatic childhood. Here is Dr. Lisa’s account:
THE INTUITIVE READING
I saw Dolly as if she were in a house and someone was walking in and out and slamming the door. The individual in the house who seemed to be creating terror seemed to have violent mood swings, so potent that they would affect people nearby, in the same room or even on other floors of the house. It felt like Dolly’s world was threatened, and the horror of being around this person reverberated in her body.
After meeting that family, I saw that Dolly’s life seemed unstable in so many realms. Did she have a hard time making friends outside of her family? I had a hard time seeing a partner or other relationships. It didn’t seem like she could last in a job and make enough money to support herself.
Her head felt shaky. Her body felt shaky. Everything about Dolly’s mind and body felt nervous. Was there dizziness and vertigo in her head? I sensed a lump in her throat. It seemed that she was constantly out of breath, and her heart skipped a beat in a way that was terrifying.
I could see that her digestive tract tended to look like it had butterflies in it, giving her that nauseous feeling. All the muscles in her body seemed tight, making her feel exhausted. I could see Dolly up all hours of the night trying to get to sleep.
It turned out that Dolly had seen her father beat her mother on multiple occasions. His explosive temper drove away everyone except, of course, Dolly. Dolly still lived with her father because she couldn’t manage to find Mr. Right, nor could she make any job last. Her problems with focus and attention made it hard for her to finish school, and she was soon diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dolly told me that doctors gave her antidepressants for irritability, and then they said she had bipolar disorder, the idea of which she thought was ridiculous. Dolly began to medicate away the memories of her father’s violence with alcohol and marijuana. All she wanted was to have the episodes of panic go away. She wanted the chest pounding, the choking, the trembling, the nausea all to just leave so she could start to have a happy life.