Were you aware that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD (CPTSD) involves some extreme symptoms? The week of May 1st. through Mother’s day marks the anniversary of my husband’s two-week psychosis episode two years ago. That two weeks marked finalization of his diagnosis that we all know too well, that of PTSD. It wasn’t until later through months of therapy that his diagnosis earned the “Complex” prefix.
It isn’t uncommon for a PTSD survivor to experience a relapse near the anniversary of their trauma. In the same light, a relapse can be triggered by one’s body or mind remembering such traumatic events. Therefore, in my husband’s case, the anniversary of his complete psychosis sends him spiraling backwards. Despite of his progress regarding remission of symptoms. That being said, he has had 11 straight days of PTSD Hallucinations. Audio and visual hallucinations (AVH) are PTSD’s most severe symptom. PTSD hallucinations are often compared to those associated with schizophrenia.
According to research, AVH includes seeing people and hearing voices. AVH in Schizophrenia patients, these voices aren’t clear in what they are saying. Essentially, they are terrifying and give no clear message. Shadows produced by poor lighting reflecting off items in one’s home look like full-bodied people attempting to cause one harm. Hallucinations describe seeing, hearing, or feeling someone or something that isn’t really present. PTSD hallucinations are considered to be psychotic. Whereas, the other two severe symptoms accompanying PTSD are not considered to be psychotic. These symptoms are flashbacks and dissociation. Although both involve disconnection with the present reality, they share similar features of psychosis.
Flashbacks: PTSD Hallucinations
When a flashback occurs, one disconnects with reality and re-lives the traumatic event or events. In general, a person temporarily loses connection with his or her present situation. Such as being transported back in time to a traumatic event. In a severe flashback, a person may see or hear things that other people do not; hence hallucinations. Flashbacks often occur during periods of high stress and can be very frightening to the person experiencing them. You may find this person to be frozen from fear, essentially paralyzed to the point they cannot move, nor turn away from what they are seeing or hearing. Comparatively, dissociation brings a similar phenomenon.
Dissociation: PTSD Hallucinations
is an experience in which a person feels disconnected from his body. He may not have any memory of what is happening in his environment for a period of time. The experience is similar to a lucid dream, but unlike a normal daydream, is very disruptive to a person’s life. For example, hours can go by and the PTSD survivor cannot recall anything that took place during that time. On top of that, they are also very disoriented and mentally exhausted. One challenge that takes place is the ability to speak. They may find it difficult to say things correctly or putting their thoughts into words.
Psychotic Symptoms: PTSD Hallucinations
A recent study on 5,877 people suffering from PTSD was conducted to determine how common psychotic symptoms coexisted with PTSD. The study concluded that 52% of those facing PTSD had experienced symptoms of psychosis. Inevitably speaking, these symptoms involved PTSD hallucinations, flashbacks, and episodes of dissociation. Generally, the aspects of hallucinating incorporated feelings of someone spying on them. Another aspect is seeing something that others could not see. Consequently, someone experiencing long-lasting PTSD symptoms or severe anxiety will induce hallucinations.
In my husband’s case, the anniversary of his two weeks of psychosis brings forth severe PTSD symptoms. Not to mention hallucinations being the most invasive. Hard to explain is the fact that he does not remember anything that took place during those two weeks. So, if he cannot remember the events that took place, how is it that this time of year brings on a recurring episode? Although it is hard to comprehend, it is very real. And, very frightening. You see, I can remember everything. But, in the same fashion, he cannot remember anything that took place during any PTSD episode from the first year and a half of diagnosis. In either case, I can remember it all but he simply can’t. And, for good reason. However, with the lack of memory comes enormous guilt for him.
Feelings Of Guilt
As with many people suffering from PTSD symptoms, guilt is one of the most detrimental. Imagine living without knowing what kind of trauma you may have caused your own family through the PTSD episodes that occurred. Regarding my husband’s case, I do not speak of these episodes because it would break his heart. Nonetheless, I have recently discussed certain events. With the goal of shedding some light as to how I have developed vicarious PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder. Therapists advised that these events be discussed during non-PTSD infused conversations. Of course, to help me heal, and to help my husband rid some of the guilt he carries around.
The past 11 days have been very trying on both my husband, myself, and our family. We have enjoyed remission of symptoms since November 2016. Celebrating the success of all of his hard work was very exciting to say the least. He has not needed to see his therapist on a weekly basis for months now. As a matter of fact, he and his therapist tuned it down to just monthly visits.
Then guilt sets in, as well as feeling as if he let himself and everyone down. However, during a therapy session this week, it was learned that when someone is dong so well, they tend to stop using the tools they were using to get to this place in recovery. Due to the fact that they feel they are doing so well, why would they continue to self-cope? In essence, this is very common. His therapist mentioned that it’s crucial to continue using the tools he learned on a consistent basis to avoid relapse.
Going From Set-back to Remission Again
As the PTSD hallucinations subside so do the other symptoms. Then the residual symptoms set in. During this period of residual symptoms we all are in a “recovery” phase. As a result of such intense hallucinations setting everything back, we all have to recover. First and foremost, he has to re-acclimate himself with life in general. Additionally this has effected his ability to work. Additionally, this episode lasting as long as it did, also effected my work.
Each time an episode this intense happens, it seems to disconnect us from each other. So, we have to work at reconnecting and rekindling our marriage. Secondly, PTSD hallucinations cause him to experience longer residual symptoms. And lastly, our once stable environment has been disrupted. For this reason, we work hard to gain stability of our home and bringing peace to our lives.
Even though PTSD episodes, especially those involving PTSD hallucinations, flashbacks, and dissociation, doesn’t mean you can’t bounce right back into remission. It takes hard work and perhaps more frequent therapy sessions for a short while. A few helpful tips to regain remission and recovery include:
A therapy that is guided by a qualified therapist who specializes in trauma. During this therapy they guide you to a very calm meditative state. Then, they assist you in recalling a traumatic event that set off the most recent onset of symptoms. Finally, they are able to command your brain to file this memory away like it is supposed to be. In patients with PTSD, episodes are due to the brain’s inability to file memories away. Instead, your brain keeps this trauma as a recurring event. Hence, PTSD developed due to this. Additionally, exposure therapy works in the same way.
Eye Movement Desensitization Repositioning therapy is significant to those suffering from PTSD symptoms. Most importantly, PTSD hallucinations. This therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic
memories. Additionally other adverse life experience to bring these to an adaptive resolution. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, one will relive the traumatic event. Then any negative beliefs are reformatted in the way your brain process such beliefs. Resulting in reducing hyper-arousal and consequently filling these events away in your brain appropriately.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapies:
Other therapies adapt retraining your thought process. In effect, these therapies can also be self-guided. Once your therapist teaches these new coping skills, you can utilize them anywhere you go. Many times my husband and I will use these kinds of techniques to reduce anxiety levels and ground ourselves back to the present moment. There’s even an app for that! From your smart phone go to the app store and download “PTSD Coach” as it is a free download. There are several coping skills and symptom regulators in this app.
PTSD Support System: Refresh
Once your symptoms subside, continued use of coping skills will keep these manifestations at bay. Eventually, try to think of any coping mechanisms that you were implementing but had stopped. Were you following a comfortable routine that you built in-order to manage your PTSD? Did any part of your routine change due to unexpected life events?
For example, do you need to reconnect with your support system? Perhaps talking to your spouse or others in your support system about your PTSD is necessary. Simply because you had this conversation once long ago doesn’t mean that it is on the forefront of their minds. Find a few articles here that you can share with your team of supportive people to refresh their minds. In particular to refresh what your needs and challenges are. By all means, they may have forgotten how serious this is because you have had such a long duration of remission. It may have been months or years since anyone in your support system has seen you experience PTSD hallucinations or other symptoms.
In fact, they are there to support you right? Get in touch with them and talk to them about what has recently taken place. For instance, someone may have been the one little trigger that sent you spiraling into your PTSD episode. Be that as it may, certainly they did not purposely trigger you. But, if they did, they need a loving reminder that PTSD is still very real for you and your triggers are xyz. Due to triggering effects of what they might have said or how they behaved, has now caused you harm. Inevitably, you will want to put a stop to these triggers as soon as possible. Without the triggers brought on by mistake, you would be in a better place.
In conclusion, a PTSD episode can feel like you have lost any progress made. On the contrary, this is not true. Consider relapse as a small stepping stone that only makes you stronger in the end. Continue the hard work that you put in place. Keep your safety net strong and your support system close. Be sure to surround yourself with those who are a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Once you overcome the symptoms from your PTSD episode, yes, even PTSD hallucinations, you will recover even stronger than you were before. PTSD hallucinations are the utmost severe case of PTSD that you can encounter. There’s only one direction to go from there and that direction is forward.
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