Child abuse, PTSD linkedTo the Forum:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) used to be called “shell shock.” It’s a

condition that occurs as a response to the horrors of combat on the


Most of out troops who fought the Viet Nam war were treated

for PTSD overseas. But hundreds of thousands of Viet Nam vets were sent from

jungle combat directly to their hometowns, without any treatment. Today, many

years later, some still suffer tremendously, both physically and

psychologically, from PTSD.

Benjamin Colodzin, Ph.D., who has worked

extensively with Viet Nam vets, and is a leading authority on PTSD, describes

the disorder as “a sane reaction to an insane situation.” He adds that having

‘strong reactions to ugly events doesn’t mean your crazy.” War is an extreme

and ugly event to experience.

Dr. Colodzin suggests that PTSD is “combat

mode” behavior, but that behavior which is necessary for survival in war may

become a hindrance in civilian life. A vet described his experience this way:

“There are reactions that sometimes go on inside of me-in my feelings, my

thoughts, my ways of acting-that have something to do with combat reflexes.

Sometimes I may react to situations happening now with a way of acting that is

meant to be used in survival situations, even when what is happening now isn’t

a question of survival.”

This description applies equally to the experience

of the “survivor of family violence,” specifically the people who were

continually abused, even when specific causal events are not totally remembered

or cannot be verbalized because they occurred before the survivor developed

language skills.

Unfortunately, much of the domestic violence in Hawaii and

specifically on Kaua’i can be directly traced to child abuse leading to


Our prisons are full of grown up survivors of child abuse, many of

whom suffer from PTSD.

Children and adult survivors of childhood abuse also

evidence PTSD behaviors, particularly when they begin to confront their early

experiences, either in re-emerging memories or sharing what happened with

someone else, such as a therapist.

As so often happens, in the course of

confronting and disclosing traumatic events of childhood, the survivor will

experience additional trauma as family members deny the survivor’s memories,

deny their own behaviors, and begin to scapegoat the survivor for being the

bearer of bad news.

Under these circumstances, PTS behaviors are likely to

increase, at least for a while.

Usually the coping behaviors of PTS develop

in late adolescence or young adulthood, when there is already a foundation to

the personality structure. Many adult survivors of child abuse live various

forms of dysfunctional lives, from alcohol and drug abuse to all the

unfortunate methods of domestic violence.

In the March 3, Garden Island

newspaper “police beat” it was reported that the nine days between March 21 and

29 there were seven family abuses, six sexual assaults and three regular

assaults investigated by the police. God only knows how many dozens more were

unreported. And this in only nine days.

Statistics prove that people who

are raised in loving homes with appropriate discipline, who feel good about

themselves usually do not grow up to be abusers.

Colodzin, in his book

Trauma and Survival, lists the following symptoms PTS:

* Vigilance

and scanning: Watching out as if something dangerous were about to happen to


* Elevated startle response: Being jumpy when something

unexpected happens or when someone touches you from behind.

Blunted affect or psychic numbing: Reduction or loss of the ability to feel and

to be close to others, to experience happiness, love, creativity, playfulness

and spontaneity.

* Aggressive, controlling behavior.- acting with

violence (physical, mental, emotional, and/or verbal). Willingness to use force

to get your way, even when it is not a survival situation.

Interruption of memory and concentration: Difficulty concentrating and

remembering under certain conditions that activate survivor


* Depression: In PTS, the condition can reach an extreme and

is marked by exhaustion, negative attitude and apathy.

* Generalized

anxiety: Tension in the body, such as muscle or stomach cramps, headaches, etc.

Worried thoughts, such as the belief that someone is after you. Sustained

feelings of fear, guilt and low self-esteem.

* Episodes or rage: Not

to be confused by ordinary anger, this is a violent outburst marked with real

danger for all present. Often more likely to occur after use of drugs or


* Substance abuse: self-soothing with drugs or alcohol (use

of prescription drugs as directed not included). Many PTS survivors use no

chemical substances and do not drink.

* Intrusive recall: Probably

the most significant indicator of the presence of PTS. Old, usually ugly,

memories that come to consciousness without warning. Happens both awake and

asleep, in dreams. Night sweats often accompany intrusive recall in


* Dissociative experiences: Memory of a traumatic event so

powerful that present reality fades into background and is perceived as less

real than the memory. In this state, one might believe that one is back in the

old situation and begin to act, talk, and feel in ways that helped one survive

in the past.

* Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying

asleep. Brought on by fear of intrusive recall in nightmares and high levels of

pain and anxiety.

* Suicidal ideation: Thinking about and planning

one’s death.

With society’s focal point of attention on child abuse, more

concentration needs to be on “grown up survivors of child abuse.”

This is

where parental education needs to be channeled, to break the brutal aspects of

family violence. And to alleviate society of the tremendous financial burden,

associated with drug and alcohol abuse, prison and court costs and all the

peripherals associated with this disorder.

Billy Whelan



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