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Survivors & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" (PTSD) is often given as a label to survivors of sexual abuse, mainly because the term seems to suit the person, but in reality, all it does is label the problem, and fails to offer any results

What's known as PTSD is simply a natural reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. e.g. In other words, a normal reaction to an very abnormal situation.

This is due to the knowledge that PTSD could not be a result of "normal" events such as bereavement, business failure, interpersonal conflict, marital disharmony, etc

PTSD results from severe traumatic experiences.

The diagnostic test for PTSD is:

a) The person experiences a traumatic event in which:

They experienced, witnessed or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others, not surprisingly, sexual abuse is one such event!


b) The person's response involves intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

The traumatic event is re-experienced in any of the following ways:

Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts or perceptions

Recurrent distressing dreams of the event;

Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (e.g. reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociated flashback episodes, including those on wakening or when intoxicated)

Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event


Physiological reactions to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble any aspect of the traumatic event.

All of which are aspects of sexual abuse/rape!

Also, if you try to avoid any of the following issues, the label fits even better:

1. Avoiding any thoughts, feelings or conversations that may be associated with the trauma;
Efforts to avoid activities/places/people that arouse recollections of trauma;

2. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma;
A diminished interest or participation in significant activities;

3. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others;
Restricted range of affect (e.g. unable to have loving feelings;
Sense of a foreshortened future (e.g. does not expect to have a career, marriage, children or a normal life span, etc)

4. Persistent symptoms, (not present before the trauma) are noted by at least two of the following:

* Difficulty falling or staying asleep;
* Irritability or outbursts of anger;
* Difficulty concentrating;

Again, all aspects of sexual abuse/rape!

The Cause of PTSD

PTSD is said to result from accident, disaster, war, torture, kidnap, sometimes a one off event.
The focus of PTSD is a single life-threatening event or threat, however it also seen as a symptom that arises from an accumulation of small incidents rather than one major incident.

Associated symptoms

Marital disharmony: the person becomes obsessed with what is happening and the experience takes over their life; partners become confused, irritated, bewildered, frightened and angry;
separation and divorce are common outcomes.


The word "breakdown" is often used to describe the mental collapse of someone who has been under intolerable strain. There is usually an inference of "mental illness.

Definitions of breakdown:

* Nervous or mental breakdown as a consequence of mental illness
* Stress breakdown is a psychiatric injury, a normal reaction to an abnormal situation

The two types of breakdown are distinct and should not be confused.

A stress breakdown is a natural and normal conclusion to a period of prolonged negative stress.

The body says "I'm not designed to operate under these conditions of prolonged negative stress, so I am going to do something to ensure that you reduce or eliminate the stress, so I'm taking over now".

The person suffering will say something like "I think I'm being paranoid..."; however they identify hypervigilance, a key symptom of PTSD, but use the misunderstood word paranoia.

So, if given this diagnosis, maybe its worth not staying with it, but doing something about it, after all, its just a label, and not the reason for feeling the way you do.