Job-Related Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Photos by Jim Macmillan, Philadelphia Daily News


As these children who grew up surrounded by violence become adults, their bodies are clearly different that a child who grew up without traumatic incidents in their lives.  These adults are clearly aware at the deepest levels that the world is a very dangerous place and at the smallest hint of danger, their body responds as if attacked.   An adult from a childhood untouched by trauma would not have a body that responds so quickly to the same threats; these people have not experienced the world as dangerous so they have a much lower set point for turning on their survival response. 


Guilt and shame increase PTSD symptoms


Guilt or shame experienced during and following a dangerous threat also seem to increase the likelihood that survival responses will remain “on” when the threat is over. Perhaps this happens because guilt and shame link to a belief that if we are responsible for threats to our own safety, we have become a threat to ourselves…and our body therefore turns on our survival responses to protect us.


In summary, the way in which our body responds to threats to our survival or to the survival of children, family members, friends and peers is a protective response.


Nature uses these responses to increase our chances of living a long life.  However, when nature leaves these responses turned on long after they are protective…they become destructive and can even interfere with our ability to survive, especially if they lead to constant sleep deprivation.  


When our bodies response to threats to survival becomes stuck in the “on” position, the symptoms which result can become disabling and life changing.


In summary:


·       Survival responses of your body almost always take precedence over all other responses because if you don’t survive, little else matters.  If your survival is threatened, your body responds in numerous ways that help you to deal with and/or fight the threat.

·       Threats to survival can begin in childhood and accumulate over a lifetime.  Regardless of whether they come from personal experiences, are job-related or a combination of both, research shows that the probability that these survival responses will stay “on” is increased and become PTSD.

·       A childhood filled with abuse and/or trauma turns on survival responses; as an adult, these responses are much easier to turn back on than would they be for someone who never experienced these survival responses.

·       Research into the symptoms of PTSD is logical if they are viewed as survival responses


Although physicians treating soldiers in WWI became aware that many of those exposed to combat had been negatively impacted, they viewed their response as a weakness or genetic defect.  This continued when soldiers fighting in WWII developed the same types of responses.  Patton…