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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): An Introduction and Some Tips

self care

The condition of PTSD (or C-PTSD) was at one time referred to as being “shell-shocked.” Both terms describe a state of intense and disturbing thoughts or feelings after exposure to trauma, violence, abuse, or threats. Such exposure could occur as a single traumatic event, a long-term abusive situation, or anything in between.  

PTSD is not rare: an estimated 3.5% of U.S. adults experience the disorder each year. Writer J.R.R. Tolkien was open about having PTSD from World War I. Tolkien spent a year in a war hospital and was intensely traumatized. These experiences ultimately contributed to his great works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which explore both the horrors of war and the idea of safe places, such as his fictional Shire. 

PTSD comes in all shapes and sizes 

But trauma doesn’t just affect the emotional health of our Loved Ones who suffer with addiction or alcoholism. Many coworkers, family members and friends carry an invisible backpack of unprocessed shock and pain. We may be struggling ourselves, particularly if we have found ourselves adjacent to a Loved One’s battle with Substance Use Disorder. 

Trauma impacts everyone differently. Mild symptoms of PTSD may simply wane over time. But many people who suffer from PTSD require professional treatment—and please remember that seeking such help is a sign of strength, period. If you think you may need help to deal with any trauma you’ve experienced, go get it! A trained psychologist or psychiatrist can help you reach a diagnosis and form a treatment plan. Ask your family doctor for a referral. 

Everyday self-care is part of the answer 

©Madison Inouye/

Whether or not you seek professional help, there are positive responses to stress and trauma that you can practice on your own. Below are some suggestions: 

Acute Stress and Trauma Helpers 

  • Routines separate us from stress 
  • Rituals give us sacred time and space 
  • Boundaries establish parameters 
  • A personal “Shire” (safe space) can be internal, a quick adult recess, or an actual place, room, or vehicle to pull away to in order to breathe and seek peace, even for just a few minutes. 
  • Creating (baking, painting, painting, designing, or simply walking with a sense of purpose)  can help us breathe.  
  • Serving or taking care of another being—a needful person, an animal, a bird—can create a space away from our own trauma. 

These are great antidotes for stress. They all come back to a need for a sense of safety when life feels out of control. 

You, your Loved One, a colleague, a family member a friend: life can be brutal for anyone. Getting intentional with coping and calming down can make a huge difference for us all. 

Annie Highwater

Recovery Enthusiast
Author, Writer, Podcast Host

Check out:  

Annie on Facebook 

The Unhooked Podcast 

Published books:Unhooked and Unbroken 


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In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)