We are born with a natural instinct to survive. If someone tries to hurt us, we fight back. So why do so many who go through traumatic events feel guilt for surviving? And why do some have a harder time coping with the aftermath than others?

Tragedies like the Sandy Hook school shooting, the recent attacks at the Empire State Building and the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, leave many survivors struggling with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And you don’t have to witness a shooting to suffer from PTSD. An illness, loss of a loved one, sexual abuse or a physical assault can trigger PTSD or cause stress symptoms.  Those who live through a life-threatening situation will struggle to handle the situation emotionally, but it is not a certainty that all will develop PTSD.

It is a minority of traumatized people who will develop PTSD. They may experience intrusive memories of the event, often in the form of flashbacks and nightmares. Others experience avoidance or become emotionally numb. PTSD sufferers may also go to extreme lengths to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma. Activities and interests that once bought joy are no longer pleasurable. Hope for the future is diminished. Still others experience what is known as hyperarousal, a state that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep and causes irritability, angry outbursts and difficulty concentrating. Some PTSD sufferers will develop other mental health disorders like depression or begin abusing alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self medicate or avoid unwanted feelings.

So why do some recover more quickly, while others who go through the same experience develop a chronic psychiatric condition that requires professional intervention? The brain is complex, but according to a recent report by CNN people who have tremendous emotional upset are at much greater risk of developing PTSD. While it was previously thought that those who responded calmly were at greater risk of falling apart later, the research doesn’t show that to be true. CNN’s experts found that people who cope well in the minutes, days and weeks after a trauma typically do well over the long term, while those who become “unglued” are more likely to having ongoing difficulties in the weeks and months to follow.

Being calm after trauma is not the same as a state called dissociation. When people dissociate, they tend to feel they are watching themselves from some outside vantage point. They feel like there is an invisible wall between themselves and the rest of the world.

Get Trauma and PTSD Help at The Oaks at La Paloma

In the wake of a tragedy, whether it’s one that makes the national news or only affects your immediate family or friends, be aware of the symptoms of PTSD and keep an eye out for signs that someone is in distress. If you see signs of PTSD and a substance abuse issue or suspect a loved one is in trouble, call Black Bear Lodge at the toll-free number on our homepage. We are here 24 hours a day tp answer any questions you have about PTSD treatment, financing or insurance.