When Medical Treatment Becomes Traumatic
When you experience a severe medical issue, it can leave you feeling lost, helpless, frustrated, and even traumatized. Most people don’t realize it, but they may have developed symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, as a result of their difficult journey with medical treatment.
Some people develop a body stress response that has been called “White Coat Syndrome”. White Coat Syndrome occurs when your blood pressure raises to very high levels anytime that you go to a doctor’s office, or are in a medical setting, both being places where doctors or staff typically wear the color white. This is an anxiety response that may be a precursor to more serious issues.
Some other signs of Medical PTS or PTSD may include:
- Other people develop intense fears of needles, called Trypanophobia
- Experiencing flashbacks or intense, intrusive thoughts about a medical procedure
- Inability to stop thinking about or worrying about health issues
- Avoiding situations that would involve medical care, even when it is necessary
- Fears and thoughts of medical care or situations cause visceral reactions, such as crying or intense anxiety, fears or worries, as if you are actually “there”
Despite your medical problems, you know you must still take care of your responsibilities. Childcare, household chores, and financial obligations, among others, are more difficult than before.
When you are these things are no easy tasks. Whether you’ve been in an accident, gone through a difficult surgery, experienced an acute crisis like a heart attack, or currently experience a chronic illness such as IBD, it is a lot to manage, and a challenge to process it all.
Navigating Life With Medical PTSD
At work, your manager may or may not understand your situation. At home, your family may not understand “why are you always thinking about that?”. When your body is struggling to function the way it used to, it is difficult to take care of yourself while managing other people’s expectations.
This can be especially difficult when your family or friends are trying hard to support you, but often end up saying or doing the wrong things, because they don’t understand. This can sometimes lead to unmet needs, feelings of utter loneliness, and a fear of the unknown.
You might require the aid of a caregiver such as a family member, friend, or nursing aide, but sometimes getting the help you need makes you feel worse about actually needing assistance.
You can learn to manage symptoms of medical PTSD.
On top of it all, you might be wondering how you’re going to pay for it all and may be having 3:00am nightmares about medical expenses. If you’ve experienced medical PTSD, you probably spend a great deal of your time worrying about what your future looks like. All of this and more can be devastating to your self-esteem and totally disrupt your sense of normalcy and belonging.
Sometimes medical PTSD can also be experienced by observers. Perhaps you are a nurse or doctor who is frequently exposed to ailing patients, or maybe you witnessed someone get hurt in a car accident. Your feelings are real, and you don’t have to keep them to yourself.
How Can Therapy for Medical PTSD Help?
Navigating and getting through medical PTSD requires a combination of cognitive and behavioral changes, as well as anxiety and trauma-informed talk therapy. With the right combination, and your willingness to go through it, therapy to treat medical PTSD Therapy can help you learn:
- Techniques to help you “talk to your body” using the right mind-body strategies
- How to identify when your thoughts are leading you down an unhelpful path, and how to apply effective strategies to counteract them
- Strategies for improving your self-esteem over the long-term
- Develop coping skills that work for you in your unique situation
- Review how your trauma and fear are connected and how you can reframe thoughts and feelings so that you can live comfortably
- Go over healthy ways to express your emotions
In therapy, we can help you learn how to cope with Medical PTSD. We are ready to listen and help.