What are the types of trauma which can cause PTSD?
As you know, PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Medical and psychological experts have learned that PTSD can cause changes in the brain. As a Catholic theologian I know trauma can also affect our souls. So I think of PTSD as Post Terror Soul Disorder. But what are the types of trauma that can initiate the wounding of our souls by PTSD? There are four of them. One wants to remember that these categories can overlap and in most cases, a person will experience at least two of them.
1. Recipient or Victim of Trauma: This is a person who has been traumatized, usually as the result of being the object of violence in one form or another. Examples are:
– The woman who has been sexually assaulted or raped.
– The child who has been molested by a priest, pastor, teacher, family member, or some other person in trust or authority.
– The soldier who has been wounded by the enemy.
– The person assaulted in a robbery.
2. Perpetrator of Trauma, this is the person who inflicts violence. Mind, we are not talking always of the morality of the violence, whether we think it was justified or not, we are speaking solely of those who cause violence or harm. Examples include:
– The soldier who shoots or bombs someone else, regardless if that someone else is an enemy combatant or a civilian, an adult or a child. This is regardless of whether the action is offensive or offensive in nature, justified or unjustified.
– The person who tortures someone else. This includes those who administer enhanced interrogation techniques, what in the 1980s we all called torture and knew violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
– Pilots who bomb or strafe as well as missile officers and drone managers located a continent away.
– Executioners in prisons and medical staff who provide abortions.
– Many talk radio hosts and people affiliated with the Fokz News Network.
3. Observation of Trauma: This is when one is not harmed directly themselves but when they observe someone else suffer from violence or harm.
– A soldier who observes his buddy getting shot.
– A note taker or who is present for a torture session. For example, she might not directly inflict the enhanced interrogation techniques herself, but is present for some reason or other. That is to say, they don’t use the pliers and forks themselves, but they watch it happen.
– Observing traumatic events directly by being there or indirectly by listening to the recordings, watching the video, or interviewing trauma survivors. Scholars who try to record the oral histories of victims sometimes get their own PTSD from hearing the stories.
– Imagination: This is more controversial. If I am nowhere near the actual traumatic events, can I get PTSD from thinking about them? In some cases, Yes. Sometimes parents of children who have been molested or killed can become physically ill with PTSD symptoms as they ponder the fate of their child. It is as if they were there but helpless to do anything to stop it. This is not unlike how a PTSD victim may relive their own traumatic events. This does not always happen, but it can happen.
4. Catastrophic Events: Sometimes we call these sorts of things “Acts of God” when it is a natural event, like a hurricane, or we call them an “accident,” when something goes horribly wrong like a car wreck or losing one’s health or job. These events can be either caused by humans or be a natural disaster.
– Hurricane Katrina is an example of a natural disaster that caused PTSD for some of its survivors.
– A human caused disaster would be the federal government’s response (or lack thereof) to Katrina. It also caused people to acquire PTSD. Word is that the Federal Government back then did a “Heckuva Job!” Incidentally, each year I have college students who go to help repair the aftermath of Katrina and as of last Spring (2009) they tell me that it looked like the hurricane just hit, little sign of progress or repair.
– Bankruptcy, Devastating Illness, Loss of a Loved One, and Accidents can also cause one to be devastated with the soul wounds of PTSD.
Usually when we encounter PTSD producing traumas we are exposed in more than one way. For example, if someone is in combat, they are inflicting trauma and observing trauma. If they get hit by shrapnel, then they also have trauma inflicted on them. And, to be a bit flippant, if the battle is happening in a hurricane and the governments has told you it is not raining, then you would have all four types of causes to deal with. No surprise that we may get overwhelmed and afflicted with PTSD.
Similarly, a woman who is sexually assaulted is traumatized by the event and the follow-on memories of that horrible time.
We Can Recover From PTSD Producing Events: Regardless of how we became soul wounded with PTSD, it does not mean we are doomed to forever suffer under PTSD symptoms. While our souls are harmed, they are not damaged beyond repair. Both medicine and spirituality have much to offer. Medicine can help us control our symptoms and spirituality can help our souls to heal and recover. This recovery is not an easy journey, but it is a journey filled with hope and love and worth making.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z