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Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders

When Does Change Become Too Much? Adjustment Disorders in College Students

Stress: it’s something all students face when going to college for the first time. While starting college is a positive step for many people, it is a big change. Being in a new environment, taking harder classes, making new friends, and often living away from home are just some of the challenges that new college students face. When this new stress becomes too much, it can develop into an adjustment disorder.

Adjustment disorders typically occur during times of great transition and stress in one’s life. Adjustment disorders can be caused by both single events and ongoing occurrences. Some examples of changes that can lead to adjustment disorders include getting married, breaking up with a significant other, or starting a new job, but can really be any sort of  big life change (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

While most people experience stress associated with changes in their lives, people who struggle with adjustment disorders experience this stress on a new level. Adjustment disorders are characterized by a person’s stress reaction to an event or change exceeds a manageable level. Their reaction to stress leads to an inability to function normally, which impacts their social, emotional, and occupational wellness. Adjustment disorders can exist with a variety of symptoms, including depressed mood, anxiety, changes in behavior, or a combination of many symptoms (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

For many people, going to college is a positive opportunity for growth. However, for some it can bring on the debilitating effects of having an adjustment disorder. One study found that a significant number of first-year college students experience adjustment disorders, making it one of the most common mental health issues facing college students. Angelyn Ramos, a student at the University of Utah, felt that having an adjustment disorder changed her entire identity, causing her debilitating anxiety. She struggled to find coping techniques that worked for her intense anxiety at the start of her college career. However, she found comfort in knowing that she is not alone in her struggle. Many college students experience trouble in transitioning leading to adjustment disorders. Despite the wide-spread experience of adjustment disorders amongst first-year college students, there is limited information and research on the subject.

Oftentimes, adjustment disorders go away on their own as the person adjusts. However, this does not mean anyone should suffer in silence. In some cases, adjustment disorders can develop into full-blown anxiety and depression. This can all be avoided with treatment. Like Angelyn, Caitlyn, a student at Penn State, also struggled with anxiety due to an adjustment disorder when she first went away to college. She particularly struggled with the aspect of living in a dorm with a roommate. After receiving help for her adjustment disorder, she has finally started to feel at home at her university. For Caitlyn, therapy was effective at helping her manage symptoms and help her develop coping strategies she can use the rest of her life.

For many, college is the first big adjustment in a person’s life, and is often followed up by other changes like getting a full-time job or moving out. This makes college a good time to learn healthy coping methods needed for further big changes in the future. Every person experiences having an adjustment disorder differently. For many, adjustment disorders are treated by treating the symptoms that they present. For example, if a person is struggling with depressed moods as a result of their adjustment disorder, they may be helped by treatment used for depression like antidepressants or psychotherapy.

Fortunately, many college campuses have mental health resources that can be used to treat and alleviate the symptoms of adjustment disorders. College students struggling with adjustment disorders are never alone. There is likely someone in the same residence hall or lecture room going through the same thing. Adjustment disorders get better with time, and can be made more manageable through treatment. The prevalence of adjustment disorders on college campuses just show how necessary mental health services are for the college community.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm05

Frolo, C. (2020). How Freshman Year Played Into My Mental Health Diagnosis. Daily Collegian. https://www.collegian.psu.edu/news/article_dfecc84c-4934-11ea-be58-5bc2256b7a85.html#comments

Ramos, A. (2018). I Suffered From an Adjustment Disorder. Her Campus at Utah. https://www.hercampus.com/school/utah/i-suffered-adjustment-disorder

Rogers, L.S., & Tennison, L.R. (2009). A Preliminary Assessment of Adjustment Disorder Among First-Year College Students. In Archives of Psychiatric Nursing- Volume 23, Issue 3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0883941708001076

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Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders

Beyond The Individual: A Look at Parents With PTSD

Loud noises. Crowded places. Feeling overwhelmed or like things are out of control. All of these things are associated with being a parent, but they can also be triggers for a person living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although raising a child is difficult on its own, the symptoms and emotions surrounding post-traumatic stress can make parenting a struggle. For a child, having a parent with PTSD can be confusing and stressful. With proper communication and treatment, the relationship between parent and child can grow without PTSD getting in the way.

The actions of children can trigger feelings of distress for parents with PTSD. Erin, a mother with PTSD, wondered how her mental illness would affect her ability to raise her two young boys. As a child, she experienced repeated sexual abuse by members of her family, leaving her with the emotional scars of PTSD. She felt constantly torn between her intense love for her children and her fear of her own emotions and how they would impact her children. She would often lock herself away to keep her negative emotions from permeating into the lives of her children. She described having feelings of depression, anger, and anxiety along with repeated nightmares: “PTSD is heartbreaking. Being a parent with PTSD is daunting. It’s heartbreaking because your past robs you and your family of the present and the happiness in it” (Bouvier, n.d.). Having children forced her to confront her past struggles and get help for her PTSD.

PTSD can be complicated and difficult to understand, especially for a child. Despite stigma and general uncomfortability, it is important for there to be open communication between parent and child. When considering opening up to a child about PTSD, it is important to consider the age of the child as well as their experience and prior understanding of the disorder. When a parent openly discusses their experience and symptoms of PTSD, a child may begin to feel relief. Oftentimes, the emotions and behaviors that result from a child triggering a parent can make a child feel guilty, upset, or even afraid. Openly acknowledging that the parent’s reaction to a trigger is not the child’s fault can put a child at ease. It is important to remember that talking about PTSD doesn’t always have to involve talking about the trauma that causes the stress, but instead focus on what the ongoing symptoms are and how that will impact parent and child going forward. The perspective and thoughts of the child during a conversation about PTSD are as important as the parent’s to be able to share their feelings towards the subject going forward.

Brooke, a mother and veteran with PTSD describes how her PTSD has changed the lives of her children. “I worried that I was passing down my combat experience like a mother passes down half of her DNA makeup. My children are different than they would have been if I, their caregiver, nurturer, and life giver, had not served in the Iraq War. Their lives have been shaped by my PTSD triggers and combat experience” (King, 2017).  In some cases, her fears were mirrored in her children in the form of nightmares and general discomfort towards the thing that would trigger her PTSD. In order to keep her children from triggering her, Brooke has a series of rules, including being silent while she is driving, not playing war, and avoiding any discussion of death. In the case of Brooke and her two sons, open conversation and clear guidelines regarding potential triggers for Brooke’s PTSD was a helpful tool.

Having PTSD affects the whole family, not just an individual. The parenting style of an individual with PTSD can differ greatly from a parent without. Parents with PTSD may struggle with anxiety, especially when it comes to allowing their children to gain independence and do things on their own as they grow older, often making the child feel suffocated. In calm moments, it is important for the parent to establish important, rational ground rules. To help differentiate between being a concerned parent and PTSD anxieties, it can be helpful for a parent to get a second opinion in the form of a mental health professional, spouse, or another person of support. There are a number of online forums and support groups for parents with PTSD. Discussion and mindfulness in parenting with PTSD is crucial to avoid passing on trauma. Most of all, it is important for trauma survivors to find a balance between parenting and PTSD symptoms.

The impact of having a parent with PTSD can be traumatizing, strengthening, educational, or all of the above. According to a systematic review of the research and data on children whose parents have PTSD, one of the most common feelings experienced by children who had a parent with PTSD was having to be extremely cautious around them. Although having to exercise caution around a parent may not be traumatic or even negative, it can put stress on the relationship between parent and child. In some cases however, feelings of caution lead to feelings of fear towards the actions of the parent (McGaw, 2019). Additionally, children of parents with PTSD often struggle with feelings of guilt, as though they are the reason for the actions caused by their parents PTSD. The impact a parent’s actions can lead to harmful misconceptions, and that is why open communication and discussion are crucial (McGaw, 2019).

Witnessing a parent experience post-traumatic stress can be stressful and scary for a child. In some cases, children who have parents with PTSD can inherit or take on some of the fears associated with their parent’s PTSD.  For example, one daughter of a father with PTSD experienced issues trusting other people because her father also had the same issues (McGaw, 2019). Witnessing a parent experience extreme distress caused by PTSD can cause a child to be traumatized or develop fears of their parents triggers (McGaw, 2019). Children of parents with untreated PTSD can be withdrawn, aggressive, have issues concentrating, anxiety, and depression.

Oftentimes, it is the stigma surrounding PTSD that causes the most difficulty. It is often believed that people with PTSD, or mental illness in general, can’t be good parents. Stigma can cause a parent to doubt themselves and their own skills and ability to raise their children. There is not one single parent-child relationship, each relationship is different. People with PTSD are perfectly capable of raising happy children, they just have to communicate and know when to reach out for help.

References

Bouvier, E. (n.d.) Mommy’s Hidden Monster: Parenting With PTSD. Her View From Home. https://herviewfromhome.com/mommys-hidden-monster-parenting-with-ptsd/

Brico, E. (2017). Why Kids Trigger Parents with PTSD and What to Do About It. HealthyPlace. https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2017/11/kids-trigger-ptsd

King, B. (2017). A Veteran Wonders: How Will My PTSD Affect My Kids? The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/11/a-vet-wonders-how-will-my-ptsd-affect-my-kids/547034/

McGaw, V. E., Reupert, A. E., & Maybery, D. (2019). Military Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Qualitative Systematic Review of the Experience of Families, Parents and Children. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 28(11), 2942–2952. https://doi-org.proxy.library.stonybrook.edu/10.1007/s10826-019-01469-7

The Oaks at La Palma. (n.d.) How a Parent’s PTSD Affects Children. https://theoakstreatment.com/ptsd/how-a-parents-ptsd-affects-children/

Powell, T. (2019). Parenting While Living with Complex PTSD. HealthyPlace. https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2019/3/parenting-while-living-with-complex-ptsd

Sherman, M.D., Straits-Troster, K., Larsen, J., Gress-Smith, J. (2015). A Veteran’s Guide to Talking About PTSD With Kids. South Central Mental Illness Research, Educational, and Clinical Center. https://www.mirecc.va.gov/VISN16/docs/Talking_with_Kids_about_PTSD.pdf

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Addiction Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders

Connections Between Trauma and Addiction

People who have experienced trauma typically need to devise coping strategies for handling stress. Unfortunately for many people, addiction becomes a source of comfort and escape. The association between trauma and the development of various addiction later in life may be even more profound than we realize.

A strong friend of mine, who wished to remain anonymous, was kind enough to describe her experience of trauma and subsequent addiction as follows: “I remember my mom physically abusing me and my dad saying that it was my fault since I tested her patience and lived in a fantasy world. [My parents] would constantly tell me I was crazy, drag me to doctors for issues and always find something wrong with me. [My addiction] was a coping mechanism from my dog dying, my mom having cancer, my best friend stealing, and all the abuse from my past”.

According to one study, which utilized a questionnaire administered to women who were seeking treatment for comorbid post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder (SUD), nine out of ten participants reported a history of childhood trauma. The researchers also found that the severity of the trauma was positively correlated with the severity of various symptoms, such as “depressive symptoms, dysthymic symptoms, socio-phobic symptoms, and distrust,” as well as an earlier onset of substance use (Lotzin et al., 2019).

In addition to substance use, PTSD has been linked to less externally obvious addictions, such as food addiction. Earlier this year, one study reviewed overlaps and distinctions between the histories and behaviors of a sample of women with food addiction and substance use disorders, compared with a control sample of women without addictions. Through administering various standardized questionnaires and scales, they found that “women with SUD or food addiction have similar PTSD and depression symptom profiles, and exhibited more problems with emotional dysregulation as compared to [the control group]”. They go on to suggest that “food addiction and SUD [may] have similar neurobiological signatures, including abnormalities in reward pathways, and may respond to similar types of treatment” (Hardy et al., 2019).

Childhood adversity, such as abuse, trauma, and neglect yield alterations in the dopaminergic, oxytocin, and glucocorticoid systems of people, as described in detail by one study. These changes exist molecularly, neuro-endocrinologically, and ultimately behaviorally. People with trauma thus suffer from such afflictions as insecure attachment style, risk-seeking, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. They are more susceptible, down to the molecular level, of developing addictions later in life (Kim et al., 2019).

It is vital to always keep in mind that people who are addicted to drugs are more often than not, simply coping with unimaginable pain in a destructive way. The more resources they have available to them, the more hope there is that they can live their lives free from the bondage of addiction. As the brain is specifically wired to respond to rewards, there is nothing wrong with people who use. When provided with alternative coping skills and a supportive network, it becomes possible for them to heal from both addiction and the damage of an adverse childhood.

References

Hardy, R., Fani, N., Jovanovic, T., & Michopoulos, V. (2018). Food addiction and substance addiction in women: Common clinical characteristics. Appetite, 120, 367–373. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2017.09.026

Kim, S., Kwok, S., Mayes, L. C., Potenza, M. N., Rutherford, H., & Strathearn, L. (2017). Early adverse experience and substance addiction: dopamine, oxytocin, and glucocorticoid pathways. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1394(1), 74–91. doi:10.1111/nyas.13140

Lotzin, A., Grundmann, J., Hiller, P., Pawils, S., & Schäfer, I. (2019). Profiles of Childhood

Trauma in Women With Substance Use Disorders and Comorbid Posttraumatic Stress Disorders. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 674. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00674

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Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders Uncategorized

Living in a Sea of Faces- Life with Prosopagnosia

Everyone has had that awkward encounter where someone comes up to you and says hello, and you have no idea who that person is. Maybe there is some sense of familiarity as you look into their eyes and try to place where you know them from. Or maybe you have absolutely no recollection of meeting them at all. Either way, you now have to either fake your way through a conversation, acting like you know this person, or ask awkwardly where you might know them from. For most people, this only happens every once in a while. For the most part, when you see someone who you have met or know on a personal level, you are able to recognize who they are. For one percent of the population, however, this feeling is much common. These individuals a condition known as prosopagnosia.

Agnosia is a disorder where individuals are unable to recognize objects or people, due to some sort of trauma to the brain. Prosopagnosia, or facial agnosia, is a specific branch in this type of disorder where individuals are not able to recognize faces. The causes for prosopagnosia can vary but typically are based in some sort of abnormality in the parts of the brain that relate to facial recognition, like the fusiform gyrus and the visual cortex. There are varying levels of severity to the disorder. In some cases, the individual could have a hard time recognizing faces and putting a name to the person. In more severe cases, an individual might not be able to tell the difference between a face and any other object. These abnormalities can be congenital, with an individual having this disorder their entire life, or it can be caused due to some sort of neurological damage, like a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

People with prosopagnosia have to use compensatory strategies to help them recognize others. They might rely on clues such as hairstyle, clothing, or voice to help identify who a person is, but this method is not perfect. As one woman who live with prosopagnosia said, if her curly hair mother straightened her hair, she wouldn’t be able to tell who it was. She couldn’t recognize an ex-boyfriend at a bar when after he got a haircut and she was wearing heels, so the height difference was off.

As you could probably imagine, this can be extremely isolating. Not being able to know who is around you and recognize your loved ones would be terrifying. It can also be extremely dangerous, especially if you don’t know that you have this condition. Individuals have accidentally cheated on their spouses, thinking that they are with their partner and not a stranger.  Children with the condition could be easily kidnapped, as they would think that they are with someone they know. If you aren’t aware that you have this condition, you wouldn’t know to look out for these situations.

What is alarming is that it is not that uncommon of a condition, but not many people may know that they actually have this disorder. If you would like to compare how well you can recognize faces compared to others, there are online tests that can be done such as this one, https://www.testmybrain.org/tests/famous_faces/ . While the results of these tests should be taken with a grain of salt, it is informative to see how well you can recognize faces, as well as get a better insight into what it might feel like to have face blindness.

Work Cited:

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.testmybrain.org/tests/famous_faces/

Agnosia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/8/agnosia

Information About Prosopagnosia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://prosopagnosiaresearch.org/index/information

Information About Prosopagnosia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://prosopagnosiaresearch.org/index/information

Prosopagnosia Information Page. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Prosopagnosia-Information-Page

Prosopagnosia: How face blindness means I can’t recognize my mum. (2016, July 01). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36651390

Thomas, C., Avidan, G., Humphreys, K., Jung, K., Gao, F., & Behrmann, M. (2008). Reduced structural connectivity in ventral visual cortex in congenital prosopagnosia. Nature Neuroscience,12(1), 29-31. doi:10.1038/nn.2224

 

Categories
Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders

Older and Wiser? Truths and Myths About Age and Wisdom

You learn as you grow, that is what most people think about wisdom and time. As we got through life and face various hardships, we not only gain resilience but character. However, do we really all get wiser with age? Recently, scientists found the answer.

In a study published by Carolyn Aldwin, the director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, she and her team found the secret to becoming wiser.

Results of her study indicate it that not only do particular hardships define the character of a person, the way that someone deals with their situation is just as important as what they get out of it.

Wisdom, as defined by Aldwin and the science community, is “self-knowledge, compassion, comfort with uncertainty, and accepting complexity”. In their study, Aldwin and researchers interviewed 15 men and 36 women, ages 56 to 91, to find out how difficult life events have impacted them and how they overcame it. Participants were of all races, ethnicity, and walks of life. Yet, there was a common thread. 83% of them pinpointed the very event that defined who they are today. When reflecting upon the experiment, Aldwin commented that “when [participants were] asked to think about a difficult life event or challenge, people had an answer right away”. It is no wonder that under the stress of a traumatic event, people remember the moment that taught them something about themselves or made them question their very being.

For 38% of participants, the death of a loved one was the most difficult trial they’ve encountered. For approximately 74% of the participants that lost someone dear, the event itself severely challenged their personal meaning and their worldview. However, 11% of participants reported that experiencing their difficult life event gave them a moment of clarity. Their weakest moments gave them the power to realize new things about themselves and reinforce the importance of certain morals. Amongst deaths, other difficult life events participants reported were romantic separation, work-related events (getting fired or retirement), family problems, and health concerns. Most of these events had lasting effects, and the participants could not do anything to change the outcome. In the face of hopelessness, participants had to learn to live with the consequences.

The second part of the interview is just as telling as the first. After participants expressed how the difficult life event impacted their life personal meaning, they were asked about how they coped with the event. Answers from the participants came from all over, but most received and benefited social support, whether or not they searched for it.

Many participants reported that after their experience, they sought help and support from around them. Whether it was from close ones, professionals, or support communities, participants expressed that they help them slowly reflect on themselves and begin the road to healing. Additionally, they often find a new connection and happiness with these social contacts. By sharing their struggle, participants expressed relief and a reconnection to their self-purpose and drive after receiving the social intervention.

On the other hand, some participants reported that they received unsolicited attention. One participant shared that after she lost her husband, her mother insisted on moving in with her to keep her company. The gesture was unwanted and unasked for, but the participant did admit that her mother’s presence provoked her to ask herself why she was seen as unable to handle the situation. This question prompted her to reflect on her dependence on her husband and how his absence has changed her behavior. Her new self-awareness is a strong indication of wisdom and healthy introspection.

Not all unsolicited help is unwanted. In fact, unsolicited support from friends, family, and even strangers left lasting impressions. Some people even found themselves in social movements, finding their identity after discovering a cause and new compassion. Overall, Aldwin and her team realized that social interactions really determine how people behave and think after a difficult event, and that is what decides how wise a person is.

So, does age really come with wisdom? Based on the retelling of 50 lives, the answer is a resounding no. Wisdom may be a complex concept, but without experiencing hardships and learning from it, there is no wisdom to be gained from time alone. Wisdom can come from any age and anyone, so don’t let a number define how wise you really are.

References:

Cohut, M. (2018, February 23). The road to wisdom runs through hardship, study finds. Retrieved from Medical News Today website: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320996.php

Igarashi, H., Levenson, M. R., & Aldwin, C. M. (2018). The development of wisdom: A social-ecological approach. The Journals of Gerontology, 73(8). Retrieved from Oxford Academic database.

LaBier, D. (2018, October 13). Do hardships in life really make you wiser? Retrieved from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-new-resilience/201810/do-hardships-in-life-really-make-you-wiser

Categories
Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders

Pink, With Love: Why Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors Need Your Help

October is a time for pumpkins, fall, and eager trick or treaters. When you think of October, you don’t usually think of pink. However, pink is a special color in October. It is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it is time to show love for those who have and are currently struggling with a deadly disease. According to experts, it is estimated that 266,120 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year (“Breast cancer: Statistics,” 2018). Though increased scanning and breast cancer awareness has dropped fatalities by 36 %, approximately 41,400 men and women are expected to die from breast cancer this year in the United States alone (“Breast cancer: Statistics,” 2018; “October is breast cancer,” 2017). Fighting cancer can be a terrifying experience—one that leaves its marks in every patient. There are pains that most breast cancer patients and survivors endure, but there are ways that anyone can help.

Social support can be tremendous to the physical and emotional recovery of breast cancer survivors. In 2010, researchers Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy B. Smith analyzed 148 studies and 308,849 participants to uncover a shocking mortality trend. Across all ailments,  participants with stronger social relationships are 50% more likely to survive than those without (Holt-Lunstad & Smith, 2010). Having a secure social support for patients can significantly improve their chance of beating breast cancer, but the fight with cancer continues even after treatment. After treatment, it is common for breast cancer survivors to feel varying levels of emotional difficulty, sometimes becoming highly distressed. Cancer treatments can throw off the body’s natural hormone levels and leave physical scars that are a source of deep insecurity. While the physical impacts of breast cancer tend to affect younger women more, older survivors have a significantly harder time coping with stress (Deniz & Fatma, 2018). Many men and women are scared that their cancer will re-emerge and concerned about the shift in relationships that occur during their treatment (“Emotions and breast cancer,” n.d.). These stresses often manifest in insomnia, anxiety, and depression (Ye et al., 2018).

Although breast cancer fighters and survivors go through many rapid changes that degrade their emotional health, social support can come in many ways and it can help them through this difficult time. Breast cancer patients and survivors often benefit from spending time with family and friends. In fact, a recent study participants who received social support from their families had more effective stress management that those without (Deniz & Fatma, 2018). Specific support groups and religious groups are known to boost emotional wellness as well  (“Emotions and breast cancer,” n.d.).

In addition to support from a person’s social circle, professional counseling can do wonders for breast cancer patients and survivors. Counselors are trained to help a person improve their self-awareness, rebuild confidence, and learn ways to cope with stress. One particular strategy, cognitive behavior therapy, has been clinically shown to be effective in increasing the quality of life. Cognitive behavior therapy is a short-term, impactive therapy method that focuses on strengthening healthy mindsets. The goal is to eliminate the anxiety and depression breast cancer patients and survivors feel. Counselors typically listen to their clients and then provide motivation and social strategies that encourage patients to think positively and try new stress management techniques. This method has been shown to help breast cancer patients and survivors by preventing them from laminating the past and reducing their fear for the future (Ye et al., 2018).

Breast cancer can be a terrible source of fear for patients and survivors. However, there is something that we can do about it. Whether it is a donation to charities that support breast cancer or volunteering your time at the hospital, you are making a difference for someone you normally would not have. Talk to loved ones who struggle with breast cancer because your care can change everything for them.

Make October a month for pink; pink with love.

References:

Breast cancer: Statistics. (2018, January). Retrieved October 1, 2018, from https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/breast-cancer/statistics/2015

Deniz, O., & Fatma, T. A. (2018, June 8). An investigation of the relationship between social support and coping with stress in women with breast cancer. Retrieved from Wiley database.

Emotions and breast cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2018, from American Cancer Society website: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/living-as-a-breast-cancer-survivor/emotions-and-breast-cancer.html

Holt-Lunstad, J., & Smith, T. B. (2010, July 27). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review (B. J. Layton, Ed.). Retrieved from PLOS database.

October is breast cancer awareness month: What you need to know and how you can help. (2017, September 28). Retrieved October 1, 2018, from American Caner Society website: http://pressroom.cancer.org/2017-09-28-October-is-Breast-Cancer-Awareness-Month-What-You-Need-to-Know-and-How-You-Can-Help

Ye, M., Du, K., Zhou, J., Zhou, Q., Shou, M., Hu, B., . . . Liu, Z. (2018, February 16). A meta‐analysis of the efficacy of cognitive behavior therapy on quality of life and psychological health of breast cancer survivors and patients. Retrieved from Wiley database.

Categories
Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders

What They Don’t Tell You About Rape: How Sexual Assault Changes You

It is no news that sexual assault leaves a lasting impact on its victims. Yet for many of us, experiencing sexual assault is a foreign fear that we live never knowing. Thus, not many of us know what is like to be a sexual assault survivor. However, there are reasons to start caring. According to national statistics, 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 6 men experience sexual assault at some point in their life (National statistics on sexual violence). Over the world, over 25% of women face sexual violence, most often as teens or young adults. These statistics show that sexual assault survivors are everywhere, and this starts to put things into perspective. Survivors of sexual assault are living, breathing souls. They are a part of our society, and they are a testament to their own strength. Amidst the lack of common protocol and the taboo nature of sex offense, many survivors of sexual trauma face a lonely struggle. For her 2018 paper, Hadar Keshet and her team surveyed over 100 American women to learn more about the mental implications of experiencing sexual assault. Their study uncovers the sad but powerful truth about sexual trauma and how it can change someone.

To find the connection between the type of trauma and how central the trauma has been to the survivor’s self-image, Keshet and her team completed a focused comparison between the impacts of sexual trauma and other types of trauma. In her findings, sexual violence degrades one’s self-perception significantly more than car accidents or unexpected deaths. In addition to Keshet, multiple large-scale studies have shown that those who suffered from sexual violence are more likely to experience PTSD symptoms than losing a loved one in a car crash. You might wonder how sexual assault can compare to motor accidents and death, and you bring up a good point that not enough people ask. Car accidents or abrupt deaths of loved ones are more widely feared because they are more likely to happen to you and anybody else. However, these incidents do not happen because of bad intentions, but sexual assault does. The devastation of someone deliberately harming and exploited the most intimate part of you is immense. Psychology has shown that when someone purposely hurts us, there are greater emotional consequences than when someone accidentally hurt us.

Acts of sexual assault shake people to their core. In Keshet’s study, the trauma of being sexually assaulted becomes more central to the subject’s self-perception than any other trauma. Women who have experienced sexual violence in this study expressed lower self-esteem and more negative thoughts about oneself than subjects who have experienced any other trauma. In addition, Keshet and her group found that survivors of sexual trauma are more likely to struggle with thoughts of intimacy and resilience than other participants.

For the much of reason that sexual assault is more emotionally impactive than driving accidents and unexpected deaths, the planned and malicious nature behind sexual exploitation completely destroys a person’s sense of security. They are vulnerable and small in the tide of events they cannot control. It doesn’t help that 8 out of 10 people knew their abuser before they assaulted them (National statistics on sexual violence). Survivors feel betrayed and experience first-hand the injustice behind such an act. These feelings stay and manifest within survivors. They will never truly be free from their own mind.

They say that time heals all wounds, but Keshat’s study show that no matter the kind of trauma occurred, the time the incident took place had no significance on how they were currently affected by the incident. In addition, the trauma from sexual assault intensifies the effect of future emotional strains. Once someone has experienced sexual assault, they will never be the same or see the world the same way again. However, understanding the painful loneliness behind sexual assault may be the best action we can do for the survivors living in our world.

References:

Keshet, H., Foa, E. B., & Gilboa-Schechtman, E. (2018, July 16). Women’s self-perceptions in the aftermath of trauma: The role of trauma-centrality and trauma-type. Retrieved from EBSCOhost database.

National statistics on sexual violence. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2018, from Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence website: https://endsexualviolencect.org/resources/get-the-facts/national-stats/