Valdosta Scene June 2022 | Page 36


PTSD and You

Dr . Sheba Phillips on living with intrusive memories
by BRYCE ETHRIDGE photos submitted

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder . It is a mental illness that develops after someone deals with a traumatic experience . That experience could be a car crash , a time when someone was robbed at gunpoint or assault .

Dr . Sheba Phillips , an experienced therapist with trauma , said it ranges and varies .
Everyone can experience trauma but each person ’ s trauma can stem from something different , even if they experienced the same event . Take , for instance , the car crash , Phillips said .
“ A person could be in a car accident with several people in the car ,” she said . “ Some people might not be affected by it – it won ’ t affect their thinking – but one person ’ s experience might be different overall .”
Because of this , she defines PTSD as a mental illness that stems from an experience “ you ” find traumatic . This traumatic experience doesn ’ t just stem from what someone sees but also from what they might hear .
Phillips said PTSD could even develop in therapy in hearing about recurring events over a long period . It ’ s something therapists can develop , too .
In that situation , they are treated just the same as clients , with a treatment tailored to them .
PTSD symptoms may show immediately after the event or they will be delayed days , weeks , months or even years .
“( Symptoms ) usually start within six months of the event happening – that ’ s pretty much on average when it happens ,” she said . “ But it can be something that happens early in childhood that manifests later in adulthood .”
These symptoms include flashbacks , nightmares or intrusive memories – memories about the traumatic event that pops into their head .
“ To that nature , it ’ s pretty common to see what we call an intrusive thought where a person may nearly try to shake their head to get the images out ,” Phillips said .
It is a movie reel that places the person back inside that moment .
People also experience numbness or disconnectedness where they will not feel present in the moment .
They will also try avoidance tactics to avoid people , situations or feelings that remind them of their traumatic event .
Phillips said these are attempts to distract themselves that often don ’ t work .
Other symptoms include :
• Negative moods / thinking
• A dysregulated nervous system
• Finding it hard to enjoy things they used to
Phillips said people with PTSD often experience guilt , shame , negative self-perception , anger , hyper-vigilance , hyper-arousal , etc . – a whole host of conflicting but negative emotions .
36 Valdosta Scene | June 2022