Why do people have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)?

People have PTSD because their body is trying to protect them from danger.  It is meant to help us during a crisis or an event where we are in danger.  For example, if I get someone who comes to therapy to work on PTSD because their spouse currently beats them, I tell them I cannot ethically help them get rid of PTSD and here is why: You need it to survive if you are still in the situation. You need to be more “on your toes” (jumpy, hypervigilant) to survive. If your spouse comes in the house and is going to hurt you, you need all of your symptoms to get away. You need to be able to hear if they pick up a gun or a knife or start walking towards your room, you need to be able to sleep light so if they try to choke you in your sleep you will wake up in time to kick them off of you. If I work with you on sleeping deeply, I could be setting you up to be in danger. Once someone is out of the traumatic situation, THEN we can work on reducing PTSD symptoms. But the symptoms are there for a reason. Once the reason is gone, your body is going to remember so that you are safe forever from that ever happening again.  In therapy we can teach your body that you are safe so that it can stop being on “high alert”, which is basically what PTSD is (being on high alert to protect you from danger, even if it is no longer there).

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