After some time has passed following a traumatic event, it is natural to assume your mind and body have healed. But, unfortunately, the reality can be much different. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can show themselves months, even years after the event itself.
Our bodies and minds have a way of trying to protect ourselves by pushing traumatic events deep inside our brains. But, as with any problem, eventually, it too shows its face in a variety of ways.
It can be hard to identify PTSD for what it is. On the surface, it can look a lot like depression or anxiety. It can impact the way we sleep, our relationships, jobs, and the ability to perform basic everyday functions.
How do you know if it is PTSD? When should you seek treatment?
1.)You are having flashbacks or Intrusive memories of your trauma. Flashbacks and memories can appear as dreams or can occur during the day. Many times they are caused by a particular trigger that may be difficult for even you to identify. Flashbacks can be so vivid that they cause you to relive the event as if it is happening for the first time. This can cause you to feel anxious, ill, afraid, guilty, suspicious, etc. They can show up as a headache, stomachache, heart palpitations, panic attack, and more.
2.)You are practicing avoidance. You don’t want to talk about the event. You don’t want to be around anything that reminds you of the event. You are trying to avoid thinking about things or facing your new reality. You are just trying to get by. It feels too difficult to address things. You might think this is helping you. But, really it is just pushing things deeper and deeper within causing them to show up in more physical symptoms or later down the road. Avoidance can also mean total seclusion. Maybe you don’t feel yourself anymore or you don’t know how to live your normal life so you avoid doing it altogether. You feel detached. Alone.
3.) You are having mood swings and/or experiencing behavior changes. PTSD does not always come with flashbacks, many times it can lead to mood swings that are triggered by something unrelated. You might feel overcome with anger over things that don’t warrant that kind of reaction. You might feel numb, hopeless, or bad about yourself or others. You might be overcome with shame or guilt. You might have thoughts of suicide that come and go. You might have a hard time focusing or have trouble sleeping.
If you are experiencing PTSD you might not find joy in the activities or hobbies you used to love anymore. You might not be motivated to maintain relationships with family or friends. You might prefer to be all by yourself.
PTSD does not have to ruin your life. It doesn’t have to break you. With the right help, care, and recognition that you are suffering, you can find a way to move forward and heal. If you are unsure if you are suffering from PTSD but are experiencing any of the above symptoms it could be beneficial to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. A professional can help you learn coping mechanisms and healthy ways to move forward.
You can find yourself again. You can find happiness and feel secure, again. There is hope for the future.
The psychologists at Wellness Psychological Services are uniquely and expertly specialized in helping you cope with trauma and the symptoms of PTSD. We welcome the chance to discuss an individualized plan to meet your needs. Contact us for an appointment anytime.
Meet Dr. Nicole Biondoletti, who will be joining Wellness Psychological Services full time in August. We are very excited to be adding Dr. Biondoletti to our team of psychologists. She brings a wealth of specialized experience in treating Anxiety Disorders, Trauma and PTSD.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a therapist?
To be honest, I’m not quite sure. There isn’t one “lightbulb” moment where I knew this would be my path. I’d say it was more of a combination of life experiences, curiosity, luck, toil, and randomness. My mother has been in the field of nursing my whole life. Her work ethic and skill absolutely inspired me, and because of that I always felt the drive to emulate that somewhere in the realm of public service. I took a psychology course in high school and I enjoyed it, so I decided to study it in college. In college, as I learned more about psychology and human behavior, I realized that in order to help people in the way I wanted I would need a doctorate, so off to grad school I went. I can say this though, although I never quite had my end game all mapped out, I never doubted or questioned the path I was on; it’s always felt right. The never-ending challenges and rewards have kept me going.
What is your favorite thing about being a therapist?
I’m pretty sure I have one of the coolest jobs out there. I get to listen, to hear people’s stories, to bear witness to their deepest struggles and their triumphs. This doesn’t get to happen, though, without trust. That is the daily challenge I enjoy tremendously about this work. Most do not walk into my office blindly granting me their trust, I have to earn it. That brief moment when I can feel the initial subtle shift in someone who is rightfully skeptical, unsure, and afraid, to a moment of hope, openness, and connectedness. That’s pretty cool.
What are your specialties and what drew you to them?
Most of my training and experience has involved the assessment and treatment of trauma and anxiety-related disorders. I first came into contact with veterans in a mental health treatment setting when I was an undergrad at UCF (go Knights!). Their Anxiety Disorders Clinic was conducting research on using virtual reality to treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. I was totally captivated by all of it. The journeys and struggles of these individuals, and the amazing treatments that helped them get their lives back. I’ve never looked back. Since then, my understanding of how trauma impacts people and what helps or hinders recovery has vastly broadened. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to help facilitate someone’s recovery from trauma. I have a similar interest in anxiety-related disorders, particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. PTSD and OCD can be incredibly debilitating and complex. Interestingly, they very often co-occur, which most people don’t know. These disorders never quite look the same across individuals, which keeps me on my toes and keeps me curious.
What makes you unique as a therapist?
I believe I strike a good balance of empathy and compassion with directness and candor. I often “think out loud” in session, as I want my patients to be included in my thought processes. In doing so, I hope to demystify the process of therapy and equalize any power imbalance there may be in the room. I also strongly believe in being authentic in the therapy room. I try to remain true to myself, which I hope serves as an invitation for whomever I am with to do the same. Facades, when left unchecked, only stall therapeutic growth.
How would you describe your therapeutic approach?
My philosophy is that our past, particularly our upbringing, shapes who we are. However, that is not always the focus of my work with people. I also believe that everyday we make choices and those choices shape our future. Overall, I would say my style is eclectic and holistic. Most of the time I listen, interspersed with moments of teaching, modeling, challenging, and coaching. I use techniques from a variety of approaches to help foster holistic health and integration, meaning mind, brain, and body are all on the same page. I also recognize that vocalized words are not the only way to express one’s experiences, so I like to incorporate creative avenues of expression, such as writing, music, or artwork.
What is your favorite quote?
Whenever I’m looking to add a new quote to my wall, Deepak Chopra and Albus Dumbledore are my go-to’s. Here are 2 of my favorites:
“All great changes are proceeded by chaos.” – Chopra. I think this speaks to all aspects of life. If we aren’t pushed, moved, or uncomfortable we will remain stagnant.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Dumbledore. This is a reminder that even at our lowest points when we feel completely hopeless, we always have power in the choices we make.
What is one thing that is important for anyone to know?
Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.
What's most important to you?
Living as balanced of a life as I can. In doing so, I hope I can be a model for others. I love to work; in fact, I haven’t really stopped since high school. Spoiler alert: almost everyone who goes through graduate school has some degree of neurotic work ethic. But I also love to not work. I love to do nothing. I love to spend time with loved ones and my dog. Sometimes I like to recharge by being alone. Having a number of different adaptive activities to balance out life’s stressors is one of the most important things, I believe, to longevity. This is actually something I have prided myself on for a long time, being able to find a balance that works for me in any given moment in time. This is how I am able to show up, for myself, those I care about, and those I work with.
What is your take on a current social issue?
At the risk of sounding totally predictable, mental health stigma and access to mental healthcare are very problematic in our country. Great strides have been made in reducing stigma, that’s for sure, and there is more work to be done. I think this starts with early conversations and more tolerance. Our culture perpetuates the “pursuit of happiness,” which conveys that if you are not happy all of the time then there is something wrong with you that needs to be fixed. We have an intolerance for the uncomfortable aspects of being a human: sadness, anxiety, pain, anger, etc. Which seems a little strange, given that the vast majority of people experience things like depression and anxiety at some point in their lives. Maybe the problem is our attitude towards these internal experiences, rather than the emotions themselves.
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment or doing a brief phone consult with Dr. Biondoletti please Contact us.