PTSD Nightmares and Night Terrors

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Nightmares can accompany the other symptoms of PTSD. This is like a flashback in your sleep. The subconscious creates the dreams during sleep, and the subconscious brain holds the trauma.

It makes sense that the subconscious brain would try to work things out during sleep. Maybe it replays situations to try to find another way to view the traumatic events.

Maybe the fight or flight mode gets triggered during your sleep. Or maybe whatever emotions are the most supressed are going to be brought up during sleep, to try to reslove them.

But when night terrors and nightmares surround you….you find yourself in the midst of terror. The exact events may not play out in the dream. It may be a series of short scenes that bring up the emotions of fear and terror.

I find that my dreams will take sudden unexpected turns, and I suddenly am trapped into a situation that brings up those feelings of darkness and terror. Sometmes I am trying to figure a solution to escape….and everything I try in the dream makes my surroundings darker and more terrifying.

Night terrors will follow you right out into the room. Usually, I have been fighting hard to wake up…and then suddenly begin to feel conscious…but there is a feeling of the evil in the dream pulling me back in….almost like hands around my throat pulling me backwards to fall.

I fight and struggle to pull myself out of the dream state and into being conscious. But once I realize I am awake…just barely….I simultaneously realize that the evil element (creature or entity) has escaped out of the dream, and is waiting for me in the darkness of the room.

It is waiting for me in the dark room.

I can neither return to the sleep state safely, nor can I wake up feeling safe. Part of me knows that I am still being influenced by the dream…but another part of me warns me to lie perfectly still….so as not to alert the creature (or creatures) that I am awake.

It is as if I feel like hiding from them, by pretending to still be asleep. I am afraid to move or make a sound.

Personally, I believe this is something similar to the “soul loss” described by Shamanism. The soul has left its regular residence within the human form of your body.  

Now…the evil creature from the dream is lurking about….trying to get me to reveal where my soul has been hidden.

All feelings of safety are under attack….No… Worse than that….The manipulator is lurking in the shadows…waiting to frighten me.

Night terrors are common with people who have PTSD. This leads to sleep deprivation for a few reasons. Different people will have different variations on how the sleep is dis-regulated.

Some people will wake up from this kind of dream, and be afraid or unable to fall back asleep. Sometimes the best thing to do at that point,  is to get up and do something for a little while….get a snack, write on your blog….like I am doing now…

Some people with PTSD dread  going to sleep at night on most nights…for fear of the night terrors…so they have insomnia. Hours go by as they think about their need to sleep, but instead of going to bed they stay awake finding things to do at night.  They are afraid to be asleep.

Our fight or flight mode can over-ride other brain functions. Logic and rational function shuts down to a point during a fight or flight anxiety attack. The “limbic system”… with the amygdala at its center… takes over.

The fight or flight mode can be triggered while you are awake…or when you are asleep…then it can draw you into a trance-like state. This might be a form of “detachment” as the emotional brain becomes too full of dread.

I often hear clients talk about having a feeling of detachment during the originating trauma. It is a way of the brain to protect itself, and the body,  from shock.

This detachment, during the trauma, may relate to these repressed emotions coming out in your dreams. The emotions can take on the form of evil, malicious entities.

The fact that the evil is waiting in your dreams to come find you….or waiting in the darkness of the room to grab you….is the repressed feelings about the terror you tried to shove down.

Any typos in this…I will proof tead tomorrow. I am no stste to edit right now. Too tired, too bleary eyed..and my reading glasses are someplace but I am not sure where right this second.

It was basically a Stream of Consciousnesswriting about PTSD and night terrors….

Keep in mind, if you havePTSD….sleep deprivation is your enemy….and a good night’s sleep is your friend.

 

 

Are Flashbacks Just Memories?

If you have PTSD you are aware of how frightening, and mentally upsetting that flashbacks can be. They can occur when there is a trigger than reminds you about the original trauma. 

I have heard from more than one person lately that their therapists are minimizing their experience with flashbacks. Therapists are not all trained in basic neurology, although in my opinion they should be. Understanding how the brain processes memories, and what happens to that process during a traumatic event, is important to the understanding of .

This is a response I left for another blogger who had this experience with a therapist. I have had clients of mine say very similar things about their therapist not understanding about flashbacks. Sometimes people are told that flashbacks are “just memories” and that it is not that bad.

Many mental health professional are compassionate. Some psychiatrists and therapists are also educated in neurology, but there are some that do not understand about flashbacks and what happens in the brain to cause flashbacks.

I have heard stories from my clients about  being traumatized in therapy. Survivors of narcissistic abuse need someone to validate their reality. There are therapists than end up re-traumatizing their clients by invalidating their reality when it comes to flashbacks and also the effect of gaslighting and mental abuse on the victim.

Most importantly, compassion for the client is necessary. You cannot treat someone and help them, if you are going to invalidate their experiences and their reality. Meeting someone where they are …mentally and emotionally…is showing your humanity. 

If you ever feel worse leaving a therapy appointment than when you went in, then something is wrong. If you feel invalidated, minimized, or criticized for things you feel and say, then you need to ask for another therapist.

They are being paid to help you heal and be whole again. So if you feel that your therapist is not a good match for you and your trauma, then it is okay to search for another therapist that understands PTSD, C-PTSD , surviving abuse, or the type of trauma that caused your post traumatic stress.

It is very important that you can express your thoughts and feelings. If you experienced abuse as an adult, or emotional / mental abuse growing up, then you have had years of not being believed and not having your reality validated. 

Here is my message to all of the clients I have helped with this issue. 

Flashbacks are most certainly different than memories. She was minimizing your pain and invalidating your reality. I do not know if she is just ignorant about the neurology of flashbacks or if she was intentionally minimizing you.

At least 10 percent of therapists and mental health professionals are pathological narcissists, because they like to be in that position of power of people’s heads and also it makes them seem believable when they call their partner mentally ill when they claim abuse. You need to be aware of this, and be proactive to protect your own mental health. 

Flashbacks are memories that have not been integrated properly by the brain. During trauma, the brain and body are flooded with high levels of adrenaline and cortisol. High levels of cortisol, especially when it is on an on-going basis, interfere with the hippocampus part of the brain. This is the part that is in charge of filing memories into the correct place.

When the cortisol interferes with the hippocampus, the memories of trauma are not filed into the past, like they should be, They are not processed as memories filed into the long term memory. So those memories are left lingering in the brain, without being put into the right box.

So the traumatic experience, and sensory images and feelings from that trauma, are non-integrated…they are fractured parts of you . This is why when something triggers the memory….like an object, a place, a smell, a sound, etc…the brain brings back the memory of the trauma as if it is really happening to you…in the present….rather than the past.

The adrenaline and the cortisol kick in , just like in the original trauma, and you feel like you are there in the trauma again. The brain cannot tell the difference between the event being in the past or in the present, because it was not able to file the memory into the right place in the brain, ‘

I think therapists should have to have some basic neurology education. Then they would at least understand that flashbacks are not just memories….I am sorry she acted this way to you. It is re-traumatizing when therapists do this to their clients.

Sending you healing and compassion.
Annie ❤

PTSD Re-traumatization and Self Isolation

PTSD is a term most people have heard, but often they do not really know what it means.

If you tell someone you have PTSD, it may be hard for them to know what you mean by that, unless they have it themselves or maybe they have a close friend or family member with it.

People with PTSD have trouble with relationships, but not for the reasons people think.

Once you have been traumatized, and then re-traumatized by triggering situations, you feel generally unsafe and there is a natural tendency to want to retreat…back up your steps and run for cover.

People with PTSD can be re-traumatized by people who do not understand, and by people who are more concerned with their own agenda than really understanding.

When someone with PTSD has certain triggers, and explains those triggers to someone, it is important that they are validated and respected. If someone wants to care about a loved one with PTSD, they need to really listen to that person, when they talk about what triggers them. 

*A person that intentionally uses your triggers against you is dangerous to your mental well being. 

But then there are people who just don’t want to listen to or respect your boundaries. Your perceptions are not of an significance to them. 

Everyone has personal boundaries, but people with post traumatic stress disorder can suffer severe re-traumatization when a loved one does not honor their trigger boundaries.

Some triggers cannot be avoided, such as loud noises that may occur independently from either person. However, talking someone into going to a loud dance club, or guilting them into going to fireworks, when it has been made clear that loud noises are triggers, is abusive.

People who have PTSD from the military, and people who have PTSD from domestic abuse have different causes for their symptoms, but some things are the same.

The fight-or-flight mode is activated by the amygdala. If the brain perceives a threat, even if that threat is not real, the amygdala will send chemicals into the body like adrenaline and cortisol.

 The feeling in the body of a “perceived threat” and a real threat is exactly the same. The same physiological responses occur, including blood pressure elevation, and feeling of extreme fear and the feeling that you have to act right away.

Someone who had their jaw fractured by an abusive boyfriend, who suddenly stormed towards them in a fit of anger, may be triggered by someone coming quickly into their personal space, especially if that person is angry.

Once you have asked someone not to do certain things which trigger you, it is a terrible feeling when they still continue to do them. It feels very violating, and only serves to break the trust bond.

Relationships need to be based in trust. Intimate relationships, as well as friendships and family relationships have to feel safe. If one person does not feel safe, then there is a lack of understanding and a lack of trust.

Without both parties feeling safe, the relationship will break down. People with PTSD can find it difficult to trust again, after others have invalidated them about their symptoms.

Sometimes someone will disbelieve you, minimize your trauma, or accuse you of trying to manipulate them with your explanations about your trauma and your triggers. This is very painful and re-traumatizing.

People who have PTSD or C-PTSD from abuse were invalidated as part of the abuse process. Their emotions were minimized, disregarded and made fun of.

To have someone close to you minimize your PTSD, or disbelieve you is re-traumatizing. It gives  the victim into an emotional flashbacks or actual sensory flashbacks.

You can only tolerate being traumatized and re-traumatized so many times.

Soldiers that come back from war only to be disrespected by civilians, or invalidated and ignored by the Veterans Administration, are being re-traumatized.

It is a way of invalidating a person’s reality. This has negative effects on the person’s mental and emotional state.

People with PTSD can be perfectly good and caring partners and friends. They just need validation, respect and understanding.

But after repeated re-traumatization, a person feels isolated and too vulnerable to take a chance on trusting another person again. This leads to self isolation, depression, and often suicidal thoughts.

Evolutionary psychology tells us that our subconscious brain feels threatened by the potential that we would be completely isolated, shunned or thrown out of the social circle.

A Little Evolutionary Psychology

In the past, humans lived in social survival groups called tribes.  Being accepted and included by the tribe was critical for survival. Being shunned would have meant death !

Our primal brain  (called the reptilian brain) perceives rejection by the tribe to be potentially life threatening.  When we are feeling a similar kind of threat, it triggers the fight or flight response in our limbic system of the brain. The amygdala becomes active and send all kinds of alerts and chemicals into the body.

Technically, we could survive living alone and isolated these days, but we were not meant to live in isolation… especially isolation due to “mobbing” or “scapegoating” by the tribe.

This is one of the reasons that scapegoated family members, suffer such severe mental and emotional trauma.

People with PTSD need to feel that they will still be accepted by the Tribe (family, community…whatever applies to the situation…).

They need to know that their personal reality will be validated, even though it may be very different from that of other people. The experiences someone with PTSD has endured may seem strange to people that have not ever had that kind of trauma in their reality.

Isolation can cause death by suicide or “failure to thrive.”

Self isolation will almost always cause severe depression. But being re-traumatized is just as bad, and the brain will try to lead people away from that pain.

Our primal brains are designed to take us away from danger, or perceived danger….and towards pleasure. But the “away from danger” is the priority.

Re-exeriencing the feelings of danger, fight or flight chemicals and physiological responses, is not something that anyone could tolerate on a regular basis.

We were not built to feel in danger all the time. Being in a state of hyper-arousal all the time depleats the immune system and causes mental disorders.

People with PTSD need understanding and validation.

They need their loved ones to be sensitive to their triggers, and to pay attention to what the person asks and needs. 

Otherwise. the relationships cannot continue in a way that is safe for the PTSD sufferer. The person with PTSD will shut down and crawl inside of themselves. No healthy relationship can be sustained without safety for both people. 

 

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