by N. Mulhare
How PTSD can effect one's senses.
PTSD And The Senses
Dealing with a psychological disorder, day in and day out, is an extremely heavy and trying burden to shoulder. Oftentimes you’re fighting just to be “normal” or whatever that means. Seasonal depression, general anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia-- there are a plethora we deal with as a society, and sometimes people are diagnosed with multiple psychological disorders. The disorder(s), when not properly treated, color(s) everything. From how we feel, think, and process information; this all happens through our senses. How our senses function and perceive is how we view the world around us. That is why they’re so significant.
The disorder I feel is most trying on the senses is PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The most basic definition of PTSD is the suffering that comes after the experience of a traumatic, uncontrollable, unpredictable, emotionally overwhelming situation ( Melinda Smith, Lawrence Robinson, Robert Segal, Jeanne Segal, 2020).
Some of the symptoms of PTSD are reliving the experience repeatedly or having flashbacks of the ordeal. Many people have serious problems sleeping, and experience nightmares. Other people may become despondent to friends, and loved ones, which leads to isolation. There is also hyper-arousal or “red alert”, which means constantly being on high-alert, jumpy, or easily startled ( Smith, Robinson,R. Segal, J. Segal).
Naturally, people suffering from PTSD will avoid uncontrollable situations or anything that reminds them of their awful experience. So crowds and large gatherings may be avoided.
PTSD definitely plays a big role on the senses. Many soldiers come home battered and scarred. Some return home to their families very differently to how they left them. A soldier who was never bothered by a loud bang before his last tour, now finds the grand finale of fireworks putting him right back on the battlefield being shot at and running for cover. A rape victim’s sense of smell may be sensitive to a certain cologne that resembles the scent her attacker wore, or vanilla air-freshner may bring on an overwhelming sense of dread in her, because it reminds her of the smell of the car she was attacked in. Simply touching the smooth shiny dashboard while sitting in the front seat of a car could bring on panic, and jumpiness for a victim of a serious car accident. Seeing a bearded man whilst walking down a city street can bring on unwanted thoughts of shame in a teen boy who was molested as a small child by a distant uncle, or the taste of chocolate can taste like ash to him because that’s what uncle used to entice him, to get him alone.
These are all instances that show the senses being affected by PTSD. However, emotions are affected the most. The symptoms of helplessness, hopelessness, shame, and negative thoughts are extremely detrimental to one’s mind. How we feel about ourselves plays a major role in our mental health.
If one suffering from PTSD can just accept that they aren’t to blame. Horrendous things happen to people and there’s no justifying or explaining it. It’s an extremely unfortunate and cruel part of life.
PTSD may seriously affect our senses, but it doesn’t have to color the rest of one’s life. Today we put such a focus on mental health and psychological disorders, that there are many options on how to treat PTSD without the stigma of 60 years ago.
Such options are psychotherapy with medication, if necessary and trauma therapy ( John M. Grohol, 2020). In combination with therapy some people go to PTSD support groups. This reinforces the fact that PTSD doesn’t discriminate, and the sufferer is not alone. There is always someone who can listen, relate, and help shoulder the pain, so that the healing process can begin.
Grohol, J. M. (2020, January 27). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Retrieved from PsychCentral website: http://psychcentral.com/ptsd/
Jelinek, L., Ranjbar, S., Untiedt, A., Volkert, J., Muhtz, C., & Moritz, S. (2010). Intrusive Memories and Modality-Specific Mental Imagery in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Psychology, 218(2), 64-70. https://doi.org/10.1027/0044-3409/a000013
Smith, M., Robinson, L., Segal, R., & Segal, J. (2020, February). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from HelpGuide website: https://helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/ptsd-symptoms-self-help-treatment.htm...