PTSD is an injury, not an illness

I had a working vacation this week.  I took 4 days off, didn’t see clients, left the state, crashed at someone’s place that is in a heavily traveled city (for free, score!) and forced myself to work.  Boy, do I know how to party 😉

That being said, I’m proud of what I accomplished over those four days even if it was not everything I wanted to get done.  I am the kind of person that always starts with a giant “to do” list, knowing it might not be possible to get it all done.  I know there are others out there that either don’t use a to do list (any accomplishments are a bonus) or have a very realistic to do list.

I did accomplish taking 13 hours of CEUs in trauma, and passing their exams, allowing me to sit for the Certified Clinical Trauma Provider exam which I passed on the first try.  Its not just the initials that I get to add to my alphabet soup, its the knowledge I got from these courses.  I take a lot of Continuing Education hours.  I’m required to do 40 every two years, but that’s not the only reason I take them.  Some I chose because of their reduced price, their convenience or because friends and colleagues are taking them.  This particular set I chose to take because I wanted to sit for the CCTP and I wanted even more information about trauma.  Because PTSD is in the forefront with today’s news stories, in the military and frequently trending on social media, it gets a lot of attention.  It also gets a lot of funding and research.

These two days of classes gave me a whole new way of approaching trauma with my trauma survivor clients and for that I’m grateful but it also gave me a new perspective on PTSD itself.  Dr. Genty, the professor, told us not to view PTSD as an illness, but as a brain injury.   The reasoning being, once the trauma has effected you, it does damage your brain- it changes how you perceive reality, threats and future traumas.

I can totally get behind that statement.  I have often used the linear explanation to try to get trauma survivors to understand why they have flashbacks and other symptoms that come out of nowhere.  The linear explanation is that our brains like to learn in linear patterns. So if you learn to tie your shoe, as your brain is learning this task, it fires synapses in a particular pattern.  Whenever you tie your shoe in the future (even when you don’t have to think twice about it) those synapses will fire.  Trauma can’t be contained in a straight line, as it doesn’t “make sense” to our brains.   Therefore, it embeds itself all over our brain, and it can be activated by different things.

This is why I like the brain injury model.  It makes a lot of sense.   It also gives a new perspective to treatment, making an even further distinction between PTSD and Moral Injury, but that is a post in and of itself.



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