A look into PTSD

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Irene Cooper
The Broadside

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an infamous burden of war, but soldiers aren’t the only ones affected.

PTSD is a psychological reaction that can happen to anybody, says Bend clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Eisman.

“The precipitant is a major traumatic event in which death, injury, or loss of physical integrity is possible. Examples include abduction, torture,
rape, violent crime, catastrophic event as an earthquake or violent hurricane, battlefield and war situations, etc.,” explained Eisman.

Everyone has experienced minor traumas that can help them understand PTSD. Eisman related a personal incident in which she was rear-ended on
the freeway by a yellow car.

“Anytime I drove in crowded conditions, saw a yellow car or had to stop suddenly, I reimagined this, and my anxiety would take over,” said Eisman.
“I would drive on hyper-alert, become hyper-vigilant and feel so awful I would re-traumatize myself. I treated myself by talking about this repeatedly until it wasn’t so novel or anxiety- producing and I had opportunities to pair it with feeling comforted and relaxed.”

According to the website for the Mayo Clinic, a top medical and research center, “Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”

Minor kinds of PTSD can resolve fairly quickly, according to Eisman.

“Treatment consists of helping the client talk about the trauma while pairing a more relaxed response to the memories. For example, the nine year old girl who experienced the LA earthquake needed to be heard, understood, and to air out her experience. She also was helped by placing shoes next to her bed which made her feel safer should she encounter broken glass, as she had in the original trauma,” said Eisman.

Major and continued traumatic events such as living in a war zone, repeated sexual abuse and torture are likely to cause a more serious and long lasting form of PTSD.

Dana Buckendahl works as a Physical Therapy Assistant at St. Charles Medical Center. She sees many patients who suffer from some level of PTSD.

“The most severe case was with a man who had had a long career as an air traffic controller,” said Buckendahl.

Treatment may include one or a combination of approaches, including group therapy, individual therapy and medication. Acupuncture may help as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Some people also may find it helpful to turn to their faith community or a pastoral crisis counselor.” In addition, “Getting support may also prevent you from turning to unhealthy coping methods, such as alcohol use.” The website offers membership in an online community in which people can “share information, support and understanding” about PTSD and other health concerns.

“You don’t have to try to handle the burden of PTSD on your own,” reads the website.

Eisman added, “The most important thing to understand about PTSD is that it is normal and more about luck than anything else. If a person is exposed to an experience that accelerates [his or her] anxiety to gale force with no end in sight and little if any sense of control, [he or she] is likely to feel traumatized and have a normal coping reaction…that is likely to result in PTSD.

“It could easily be you, your mother, your brother, your friend. Be nice.”

The CAP Center at Central Oregon Community College, located on the lower level of the Barber Library, offers counseling by appointment.

You can contact Irene Cooper at icooper@cocc.edu

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