Healing from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) requires that from the time one begins experiencing the painful emotions (at the point of trauma), till you make a full recovery, there are 5 stages or phases that develop. This article is not meant for medical professionals, so much as a guideline for healers, friends and families of the person who has suffered the “soul damage.”
There are five “recovery” stages of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
1) Hyper-Vigilance or Emergency Response Stage.
Stage 1 begins at the triggering event(s). Whether the person experiences sexual abuse, natural disaster, war, violence, or witnesses death and destruction the soul wound takes place at the moment that there is fear for one’s life, horror, and helplessness. There is always an event or a series of traumatic events that trigger PTSD.
Basically the human nervous system becomes overstimulated at a trauma, abuse or disaster. The intensity of the situation brings on the “fight or flight” mentality. This starts with rapid breathing and elevated blood pressure combined high levels of adrenaline.
You feel extreme fear. Then after the danger has passed, there may be relief, disbelief and confusion. When a soul has been wounded there is not always a visible sign on the outside, but the impact can be tracked physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally.
2) Denial or Numbness Stage
In stage 2, there is a rapid drop in blood pressure. The body has gone from high-alert ultra- sensitivity to emotional and sensory crash. It begins to shut down to the bare essentials.
Physically your energy levels drop. Intellectually you are operating on minimum capacity. Spiritually you disconnect.
PTSD often results in a mental or spiritual crisis or the total loss of one’s mental and spiritual anchors.
In stage 2, the most common description is “numb”.
This numbing (both physical and emotional), is the result of the survivor switching to self-preservation mode, through denying and attempting to forget the painful stress and emotions. Many PTSD sufferers get stuck here.
Although they may not develop the more severe symptoms that happen in stage 3, numbness and the inability to feel is a terrible existance.
Without medical or professional assistance a person may feel that numbness, shock or feeling “dead inside” for their entire life.
3) Nightmare- Flashback or Disruption Stage
The soul has an open wound and it begins to spill its contents into other areas of the trauma survivors life. Nightmares, mood swings and flashbacks, of the triggering event, are signs of this phase. On both a conscious and unconscious level, the PTSD begins to reach a crisis. The survivor of the trauma is prone to a hyper startle response, depression, feelings that they may become “disconnected” from the present and reality, suicidal thoughts and fantasies emerge.
The flashbacks can include extended depressions. Sometimes the survivor isolates from friends and family and is antisocial. This is the stage where the injured soul is desperate to avoid dealing with the trauma. Their internal defenses are stuck on “avoidance” mode to prevent them from reliving and experiencing the trauma again.
No longer numb and trying desperately to avoid feeling anything, the wounded soul can develop a variety of disorders and behaviors. PTSD may be the root cause of alcoholism, addictions, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anger issues, sleep disorders etc…
In some cases, the person with PTSD is becoming unable to function in a normal way. Professional and spiritual counseling help may be required at this stage. When the survivor has become overwhelmed and can no longer cope, they need medical intervention.
By the time the injured soul reaches this stage it is becoming obvious to friends and family that help is needed to process the tragedy. The crisis symptoms of stage 3, or the people that love them, may force them to begin to deal with the PTSD, rather than continue the self-destructive and painful symptoms that they are experiencing.
It has been estimated that as many as 50% of the people in the United States will experience trauma. Not all of them will develop PTSD. Not everyone who has PTSD will develop the more severe symptoms in stage 3.
When the person with PTSD gets help then the true healing can begin. If no help is sought then they get stuck in stage 3. If the survivor gets help, or becomes aware of the need to recover from the trauma, they move on to stage 4.
4) Processing, Talking, Return to Feeling, Soul Healing
In this phase the survivor, sometimes with the help of a counselor, or medical professional begins to put the event into prospective. Milder cases of PTSD may quickly begin to be positive.
During this stage (the healing process), survivors begin to confront the trauma directly rather than deny or mask it. At the start of stage 4, survivors may still be in crisis. As they begin to feel again, the initial panic is replaced with calmness and purpose.
Many PTSD suffers begin to work through their feelings with friends and family or the people they trust. Those with the severe symptoms described in stage 3, will be talking to a counselor, psychologist or doctor.
All wounds to the soul must be acknowledged. During this processing of emotions and memories the wounds begin to scar over and heal. Dealing with a traumatic event may require the survivor to talk about it in detail.
Telling their story, a lot, is encouraged. As they begin to heal, it is like letting the air out of a balloon. As the heart and soul wounds heal, the nightmares, flashbacks, and depression start to fade or disappear. By telling their story the feelings of stress, anguish, and fear that are attached to memories of the triggering event lose their power.
There is an old saying that applies to the healing of a soul, “The more you truly feel, the more you truly heal.”
5) Completion-Integration- Peace
The fifth and final stage is the integration of the body-mind-spirit. The trauma of the past, has been to a large extent recognized, the feelings have been acknowledged, and the past experiences are no longer dominating the present. By this stage, the survivor has largely come to terms with the trauma and accepted that they experienced this event.
The open soul wound has been scarred over and healed. The PTSD sufferer is now “reconnected” to a positive spiritual and emotional base, and to life , in general. Past experiences no longer direct feelings or future events. PTSD sufferers can heal and are now capable of living full and happy lives. In this stage, the survivor has accepted what happened and is often able to regain peace of mind and control of their lives.
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” , by Amira, Retrieved from http://www.storymakeovers.com/post/51394499954/post-traumatic-stress-disorder
“Recovering from Trauma”, by Ellen McGrath, published on November 01, 2001, Psychology Today Online http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/recovering-trauma
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, by D. M. Vancleave (2007).