The Time Bomb
Inside every person with PTSD is a time bomb. It is merely a matter of time before symptoms begin to show up. One might exhibit all manner of symptoms in nearly everything s/he does, and still live what appears to be a normal life. However, it doesn’t take much to bring out full-blown symptoms of a full-blown case of PTSD.
Unemployment, Illness, and too much Free Time (and worry) exacerbates PTSD symptoms. Can be acute when untreated.
Additional Stress: Stress kills; we know this. Additional stress in the life of a PTSD sufferer will bring out their PTSD symptoms. Even good stress can increase one’s symptoms; good stress such as a birth, or a new love, or a promotion at work. Anything that wobbles the apple cart — little changes, big changes, good changes, bad changes—will promote PTSD symptoms.
Then there are the huge stressors; the larger the stressor, the more virulent the PTSD symptoms.
Reminders: anything that reminds the PTSD sufferer of the original trauma will pique symptoms. Additionally, the anniversary of a trauma will cause a rise in PTSD symptoms.
[i.e. Someone making one mistake can and often does become a target of PTSD sufferer's anger. The PTSD suffer may lay all manner of unrelated or perceived 'slights' at the feet of the person who may have done something wrong in their eyes.]
If a woman was assaulted near an elevator, elevators will trigger her symptoms. If she remembers the date of her assault, as the anniversary approaches, symptoms increase.
I know of no more disagreeable situation than to be left feeling generally angry without anybody in particular to be angry at. - Frank Moore Colby
Persons with PTSD hold in a lot of anger. It is a free-floating anger with no real target and very subtle causes. It simmers below the surface and can jump out at inappropriate times, aimed at the wrong person for the wrong reasons (displaced anger).
For instance: following a rape, the rape victim is filled with rage. The specific targets of this rage are quite obvious: the rapist, the system that puts the victim on trial, the doctors for their insensitivity, and the list can go on depending on the ordeal the rape victim endures. However, years later, this anger can still exist, simmering just below the surface.
And though many argue that the cues to the anger have changed, that the original incident has softened in the mind of the sufferer, that this, that that—it's all "neither here nor there" because there is no logic, no reasoning with chronic PTSD, everyone and everything is the cause, and the nearest person or object can be the target.
Normal people get warm, then angry, then angrier, and progress to a state of rage if the stimulus to the anger is not abated. A PTSD sufferer can go from A to Z immediately... When anger strikes, it quickly turns to rage.
Anger Management classes are usually prescribed for PTSD patients, however, the patient might still never arrive at the cause of this anger, as the original cause has faded, leaving only the anger. Learning to deal with this anger is much more productive at this juncture than trying to discover its cause or causes. In a good Anger Management class, the PTSD sufferer can learn that one cannot control one’s initial feeling about something aggravating, however, s/he can control her/his reaction.
Being the target, displaced or not, of this anger is one of the major causes of "secondary PTSD," the disorder suffered by those close to the PTSD sufferer. Oftentimes families walk on eggshells to avoid doing anything to upset the PTSD sufferer. Children, wives, friends, neighbors and lovers tend to withdraw and avoid any and all possible confrontation. Partners of PTSD patients must keep alert and note when the anger outbursts increase in intensity and the intervals between them shorten. This is a sure sign that there is something else occurring within the patient and a trip to the therapist is needed.
Labels: anger, complex ptsd, displaced, inappropriate, misplaced, ptsd, rage, victims, walking on eggshells