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“Will I ever be the same” (Part 2)

A syndrome called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect victims of sociopaths. The trauma of losing love, friends, family, possessions and of enduring psychological/physical abuse is the cause of this disorder. To fight the symptoms of PTSD, it is helpful to understand the symptoms and how they relate to loss and trauma.

As I read through the current literature on PTSD, I quickly discovered that there is a fair amount of controversy regarding this disorder. We can actually learn about the disorder by listening to the arguments. The first question on which there is much disagreement is, “What trauma is severe enough to cause PTSD?” There were several editorials by experts disparaging the fact that everything from giving birth to a healthy baby to a boss yelling at an employee is now said to cause PTSD. Most experts are in favor of reserving this diagnosis for people who have suffered truly unusual life experiences, like kidnapping, rape, war, 911, etc.

The problem is that many people do experience severe stress reactions to difficult life circumstances. It remains to be determined what we should call these reactions.
Those of us healing from our relationship with a sociopath often vacillate between accepting the trauma and minimizing it. Thus, the argument about what kinds of trauma are severe enough to cause PTSD has a direct effect on us. The argument can leave us feeling weak, like we should be able to get over this. After all it wasn’t as bad as 911, Iraq or Katrina—or was it?

The second question is “what symptoms constitute PTSD?” The following table shows the most common symptoms seen in a group of 103 British men and women diagnosed by psychiatrists with PTSD (Current Medical Research Opinion, 2003):

Symptom Frequency (n=103)
Insomnia 98 (95%)
Anxiety at reminder cues 96 (93%)
Intrusive thoughts, images, sounds, sensations 94 (91%)
Irritability 93 (91%)
Poor concentration 93 (91%)
Diminished interest in significant activities 88 (85%)
Recurrent dreams of trauma 86 (83%)
Avoidance of activities or places associated with the trauma 85 (83%)
Foreshortening of expectations about the future 80 (78%)
Detachment from others 78 (76%)
Avoidance of thinking or conversing about the trauma 75 (73%)
Poor appetite 69 (67%)
Hypervigilance 55 (53%)
Startle reactions 46 (45%)
Acting or feeling as if the event was recurring 37 (31%)
Inability to recall parts of trauma (amnesia) 19 (18%)

I put up this table because I thought that a number of you would also endorse these symptoms. Notice that “acting or feeling as if the event was recurring” was really not that common. But similar symptoms, like “Intrusive thoughts, images sounds and sensations,” were very common. Amnesia was also uncommon. Startle reactions were only seen in half of the subjects.

A feeling of a foreshortened future is a particularly debilitating symptom because it impairs a person’s ability to plan for the future and leads to a sense of hopelessness. I will expand on this further, but I strongly believe this feeling of a foreshortened future has to do less with our thoughts about our past, and more with our thoughts about our present.

As I look at this list of symptoms, I am struck by the fact that many, many of those writing into Lovefraud complain of these symptoms, particularly nightmares. There is something special about having had emotional involvement with an aggressor that seems to produce nightmares. Since so many have all of the most common symptoms, I think it has to be that the trauma of life with a sociopath is severe enough to cause this disorder in many people.

Here’s where defining exactly what trauma is gets sticky. Rachael Yehuda, Ph.D., said in a recent article published on MedScape, “One of the things that biology has taught us is that PTSD represents a type of a response to trauma, but not the only type of response. It is a response that seems to be about the failure to consolidate a memory in such a way as to be able to be recalled without distress.” Well, this is precisely the definition that is too broad. I personally have a lot of memories that I experience or re-experience with distress. Yet these memories are not accompanied by the list of symptoms in the table above.

For me what made the experience traumatic was the truly life course-changing nature of the trauma. The answer to the question, “Will I ever be the same?” for me defines trauma significant enough to cause PTSD. The trauma that causes this disorder redefines us in a way that is different from other emotionally significant experiences. This trauma strikes at the core of our identity.

The final controversy surrounds the treatment of PTSD. Interestingly, there is no question that medications (SSRIs, particularly Zoloft) are very helpful. The problem is though that when a person goes to a physician and receives a medication, he/she is by definition “sick.” Assumption of a “sick role” or “victim identity” is one of the many factors that slow recovery from PTSD.

Many therapists are of the belief that “debriefing” or retelling the story is necessary for recovery. One group of researchers reviewed the studies on debriefing and concluded that there is no scientific evidence that it prevents PTSD. Instead, the evidence points to post-trauma factors like social support and “additional life stress” being most important.

How can we put this all together? Considering last week’s post, those who experience trauma serious enough to have stress hormone overdose as manifested by dissociation, are likely to also develop PTSD. An examination of the symptoms of PTSD reveals that at the core of the disorder is the fact that the person really doesn’t believe in his/her heart that the trauma has ended. PTSD is about ONGOING, not past, trauma. For those of us whose lives were assaulted by a sociopath, there is ongoing stress. The stress is the social isolation, financial ruin, and threatened further losses long after the relationship has ended. Those who recover from this without PTSD work hard to put the trauma behind them in every way.

Putting the trauma behind you does not mean you can’t take medication to help with the process. It does mean facing those bills, former friends, and other personal issues you want to avoid. Remember AVOIDANCE STRENGTHENS FEAR.

Above all, stop the ongoing trauma by ending contact with the sociopath. Do not assume a sick role, instead, work to stay healthy. Fight to be the person you want to be. Don’t allow this single experience to define you. Make living for today the place you love to be. As Louise Gallagher says in her recent post, “This is, in many ways, the greatest challenge of recovery – to accept the past is simply the route I took to get to where I am today, a place I love to be. The past cannot be changed. It cannot be altered. It cannot be made ‘better.’ It can only be accepted so that it, and I, may rest in peace with what was, eager to accept what is true in my life today.”



639 Comments on "“Will I ever be the same” (Part 2)"

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  1. alivetoday says:

    Truthspeak, I just posted a long comment under the article of Letters from LoveFraud, we want to believe we are different, we are special….
    I think I should have posted it here. … however, your post today to Tony and Sebbo at 10:45 this morning was exactly what I needed to read in response to my post and I thank you so much for wisdom, acceptane of others in whatever healing stage they are in and your constant encouragement to all. Sometimes, I am so angry for my post, for my ranting and choppy sentences that make no sense to the reader but I found your post very comforting in many areas that I am struggling with…
    thank you again..

  2. Sebbo_Ricadonna says:

    You know the greatest feeling of anger that I get?
    Its knowing that she’s out there playing tricks on other men. She’s out there wooing them into her world of elaborate lies and deception. She’s out there trying to manipulate poor hapless souls into commited marriage all in exchange for some human companionship.

    Then, just as in my case, she will ask for the following.

    - Joint bank account
    - Marriage commitment within 3 months
    -Wedding rings selected by her (no matter the price)
    - Wedding venues organized behind your back
    - Wedding decorations purchased behind your back
    - “locking you in” to future events such as cruising
    - Getting YOU to put down deposits for all the above
    - Texting male friends when you are with her
    - Happily receiving calls from other males while making
    you wait in agony for up to 4 hours at a time.
    - Forming close connections with your circle of friends trying to force her way into your sacred world
    - Establishing her own contacts within your family and friends against your desire to present as a couple.
    - Trying to control aspects of your family
    - Enquiring on financial savings
    - Asking for money at any given time

    and at the very final stage -

    LEAVING YOU WITHOUT A WORD.
    WITHOUT A TRACE.

    or

    TELLING YOU TO GO AWAY
    AND THREATENING A RESTRAINING ORDER.

  3. Tony77 says:

    Sebbo

    As you have put it down yourself through the
    dot points you have mentioned …. Quite simply dealing with a sociopath is all about the transaction.

    Its not about feelings or love.

    I got caught in the same trap.

    Sure, I feel bad. I feel worse now than I did
    before meeting her.

    All I can do is thank myself that I was in some
    type of relationship after being single for 8 years
    before meeting her. I got to learn a lot more about
    myself and about her and her sociopathic illness.

    My girlfriend never gave me a chance to relax during
    the relationship. She was always organizing things.
    The same probably goes with your relationship especially when you say that she trieed to “lock you in” to set targets and future events.

    This is the sociopath’s way of manipulating her victims.
    She will organize these future events to

    (1) Keep you committed to her
    (2) To control your behviour between events
    (3) To control your dispersal of information to others
    (4) To keep you under submission at all times
    (5) To make you aware that she is the boss

    Thinking about your situation Sebbo, I would strongly
    advise that you focus on

    (1) Your sleep. See a doctor as soon as possible.
    (2) Your emotional wellbeing – see a counsellor
    (3) Destroy all photos or memories of her
    (4) If you cant do any of the above – write down on
    a paper the reasons why she left you according to your
    own observations. Read this paper every morning.
    (5) Write a diary and record GOOD EVENTS that happen
    to you every day.

    Pain is the worst result of a sociopathic relationship.
    To deal with this pain is partly a response to you being
    shafted the way you have.

    To a sociopath there is only a winner and a loser
    and the WINNER TAKES IT ALL.

    Just realize that we can’t always get what we want.
    We can’t always win. As hard as that sounds it is true.

    Sometimes we just need to let go.
    Put the whole relationship you had in the
    “Too hard basket”.

    You will never be able to make sense of this woman.

    If you really want to see her – contact her via a lawyer
    but I would strongly recommend you dont unless you
    have factual information to prove that she has inflicted
    damages on you that have truly affected your job, your
    health or finances.

    Best of luck Sebbo

    Tony

  4. witsend says:

    one/joy,
    So sorry that you are lonely tonight and that you are having a rough time. And working so much.

    It is hard to live alone…I am finding that out these past two years. It is lonely sometimes.

    I went from living in such absolute chaos to absolute silence. Although I don’t miss the chaos….Sometimes the silence is deafening in a different way.

    xo

  5. Truthspeak says:

    Alivetoday, gentle hugs to you. I have MANY moments of backpaddling, believe me. Last week, I was in a funk of despair and defeat and I allowed it to affect everyone around me to the point where a dear and supportive friend burst into tears and told me that I was behaving like someone else he had known who had committed suicide.

    Some days, I take three steps forward. Another day, I might stand still. Another day, I might stumle backwards. But, at the end of the week, I will be a monkey’s uncle if I am not at least one nanometer forward than I was the previous week!

    We al heal at our own rates, Alivetoday. Sometimes, I don’t even WANT to heal! Sometimes, I just want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head, and wake up a decade later. But, I know on an academic level that such a desire or wish isn’t possible. I have obligations and there are people who are depending upon me to do my job. There are people around me who need support, too.

    I am so grateful for this site and every survivor that posts here. Each and every one of you is helping me to survive and recover. I have SO much to be grateful for, this morning. Brightest blessings, everyone.

  6. one/joy_step_at_a_time says:

    thank you witty. xo one joy

  7. libelle says:

    (((((One joy))))). I wish you a peaceful healthy sleep and a quiet night. And for tomorrow I wish you a better day!

  8. Tony77 says:

    There is only one way to heal from a sociopath
    and that is QUARANTINE.

    Unfortunately for me I got the raw end of the stick by
    getting dumped.

    So I guess its not my “privelege” to dump her but
    a necessity.

    Whatever the case may be, to quarantine a predator is
    better than pursuing a predator.

    Sebbo, if you are reading this please keep the above comment in mind. If you or your heart tells you to get
    in contact with the spath woman – please dont.
    You know there is only 1 result and that is a restraining order.
    Please please do not contact her at all.
    You contact her – you’ll have police at your door.
    I’m just warning you for your safety.
    Never take the threat of a restraining order lightly.
    Especially if she works in corrections as you say.
    You really dont know how dangerous this situation may
    become should you decide to step over that boundary.

    No contact can be lonely but what is the alternative?
    You really have no other choice.

    Best Regards
    Tony

  9. one/joy_step_at_a_time says:

    (((libelle))) thank you. :)

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