Reclaiming Intimacy: What is Medical PTSD?

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a condition that arises after any aged human experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. These types of traumatic events could be a serious accident, rape, war or terrorism, violent personal assault, or even natural disasters. In recent years, the term “medical PTSD” has arisen and is now considered a “chartable” issue. Most often, PTSD is tied to veterans coming home from war, still experiencing the terror they experienced while serving. For people who are stricken with a life-long illness, PTSD can be a very real thing. Most often PTSD is diagnosed from first-hand trauma, but in some cases, PTSD arises and grows from simply knowing the details of any traumatic event.

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects approximately 3.5% of adults in the United States, and one in eleven people will be diagnosed with some form of PTSD in their lifetime ( Women are also twice as likely as men to be diagnosed in their lifetime.

Those diagnosed with PTSD may find themselves suffering from all of, or some of, the most common symptoms. There are four main categories of symptoms that affect people, with their specific side effects of varying degree.

Negative thoughts and feelings are often one of the first symptoms noticed. Distorted and negative beliefs about yourself and others, constant worry, fear, guilt, anger or shame might be actively present in your head each day. Losing interest in things, activities, and parts of life that you previously enjoyed or feeling detached from your life and those in it.

Intrusive thoughts are repeated thoughts that, no matter how you try, you cannot seem to stop from spinning. These are often distressing dreams, memories from good times you now feel like you doubt, or bad time which you cannot seem to turn off, or flashbacks of the actual event. These flashbacks can be dull, or extremely vivid to the point where the person is physically incapacitated while the feelings take hold, and until they pass.

Arousal and reactive symptoms can include everything from mood and irritability to having extreme outbursts of anger, happiness, sadness, or any other emotion to an extreme. These symptoms can also be linked to loss of concentration, loss of sleep, and possible self-destructive behavior.

Avoiding the memories and events. A person with PTSD might go out of their way to avoid everything that was once involved with the trauma: people, activities, places, objects, smells, situations, and anything else that brings back the memories and thoughts. Some people may struggle to avoid talking about and remembering what happened and they may avoid all feelings surrounding the events.

Medically speaking, PTSD can be caused or triggered by constant doctor visits, repetitive bad news, horrible side effects from chemotherapy and other life-long illness treatments and watching friends with the same conditions pass away. Medical PTSD research is just beginning to take off and more studies are being done to prove the effects of cancer and life-long illness in connection to PTSD. Many studies are also being done with children stricken with cancer and autoimmune diseases to track their physical and mental health in regards to post-traumatic stress disorder and development. (NIH)

For example, for someone who has a gastrointestinal cancer and struggles daily with pain from eating food, eventually begins to loathe eating and then entirely avoids it. For someone with return stage four lung cancer, seeing the needle come close to their skin for the chemotherapy IV drip might cause them to cry out in terror and cower from the procedure. For the child with bone cancer, lying in the MRI machine might make them feel like they are drowning. For others, it is extreme anxiousness at every doctor visit with excessive amounts of body sweat, fidgeting and panicking with white-knuckled arm-chair holding.

In any case, PTSD is a serious condition that affects the everyday life of the human diagnosed. This can mean your intimate life is also troubled when the heaviness of PTSD symptoms and triggers begin to take over. PTSD can cause complete impotence and a myriad of sexual side effects like loss of libido, inability to focus, loss of orgasm, and lack of interest. If you think that you are suffering from any of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, please contact your doctor to schedule an appointment and let them know how you are feeling. It is very common to struggle to keep a level-mental state while dealing with extreme medical issues and cancer treatment or survival, and perfectly normal to reach out for help to seek treatment.

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Reclaiming Intimacy

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