Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress By Sophie Cayer
Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress
Does this relate to you or someone you know? Ever thought about it?
Through the years many have turned to me seeking help for a loved one suffering with Post-traumatic Stress (PTS). Something that rarely enters their mind is pursuing help for themselves. They are so overwhelmed and wrapped up in the role of caregiver, their personal needs are typically set aside. “Take care of them first.” or “They need help more than I do” are the most frequent responses when it is suggested their personal challenges deserve attention.
Take care of yourself! An article I wrote some time ago was entitled “Oxygen Mask Please”. It emphasized the fundamental need of self-care when we caring for others. Regardless of your role in the life or lives of those with PTS, self-care is something that shouldn’t be ignored. When left unattended, the consequences can be devastating.
While PTS has reached epidemic proportions, if we consider all the people whose lives are impacted as the result of exposure, what does that say about Secondary Post Traumatic Stress (SPTS)? An article on the internet estimated the number of people affected for each person with PTS to be thirty-six (36). It includes those who live with them or interact them on a regular basis. Counselors and psychologist working in this field are not immune and can themselves face burnout and SPTS.
The sad fact of the matter is that no matter who you are, when you are close to someone with (PTS), anxieties and worries become the norm. Before you realize what’s happening, you may find your behavior beginning to mimic that of the very one you are trying to assist.
SPTS can be just as debilitating as PTS. A challenging part of the journey is realizing that you are not the cause or the solution for the one with PTS. You can be there for them and be supportive, but remember that strengthening your own mental and emotional health is essential.
If you are saying “There isn’t time for me”, “I can wait”, or anything else that means neglecting your needs, it is time to rethink things.
SPTS symptoms are no different than those for PTS. If your first reaction is “Why would I have recurrent or distressing memories or flashbacks?”, fasten your seatbelt. When communication is strained at best and your loved one suddenly feels like a stranger, is subject to angry outbursts or completely shuts down – unable or unwilling to share what they are feeling, the exchanges between you (or lack thereof) will take a toll.
Add to this your feelings of hopeless and helpless because nothing you do seems to work, and I am sure you get the picture, if you haven’t already.
In order to make a positive difference and help others recover, taking care of yourself must be at the top of your priority list. Make time for yourself, even if it only carving out a few minutes a day. Find someone you can comfortably confide in, and if you are uncomfortable confiding in someone consider journaling.
Meditate, explore and utilize the alternative or complimentary techniques that work best for you. Make your own well-being a priority. Walk, swim, take deep breaths, read, and of course make use of EFT on a daily basis!
Because of the complexities and intensities of dealing with PTS and SPTS, give serious consideration to working with an EFT professional with experience and expertise in this area. With patience and persistence applied, EFT can make a greater difference than you may dare hope for.
And of course, it is wise to consult with trusted medical professionals on a regular basis.
If you have questions or if I may be of assistance, I’d love to hear from you.
Wishing you all the best,
EFT Founding Master
Phone: (941) 776-8584
U.S. East Coast