GFW PTSD Home  | Site Map  | Site Search   
Gift From Within - PTSD Questions & Answers with Frank Ochberg, M.D.

Complex/Chronic PTSD:
PTSD Symptoms:
PTSD/PTSI Insomnia:
Caregivers/Partners with PTSD:
Childhood Abuse:
Work Issues:
Veterans & PTSD:
Other Conditions:

PTSD Questions & Answers
Joyce Boaz & Dr. Frank Ochberg, M.D.

Read "Survivor Psalm" by Frank Ochberg

search this site the web

site search by freefind

Search FAQ pages (use FAQ in your search string)

Therapy: PTSD Symptoms After The Therapy Hour.

Q: Dear Frank, How does one keep their mood up after a therapeutic session when they have been talking to their therapist about very serious issues like child abuse, victimization and/or sexual assault?

A: Dear Joyce, Good question! Just today I received a call from a relatively new patient who seemed upbeat after we had our last session, but then felt terrible several hours later. His previous job placed him in several near-fatal circumstances and two years later he still has vivid flashbacks, nightmares and feelings that he finds difficult to express.

We work effectively on these PTSD symptoms during the therapy hour. Both of us experience gratifying progress. But he, more than once, has that after-therapy-let-down which you raise in your question. I don't think it comes from being "triggered" during the time with me. I do think our time together is experienced as connected, collegial, and hopeful. But afterwards his sense of security and of personal optimism has some ups and downs. Often he has an awkward interaction with his spouse or a co-worker and his feeling of being understood and accepted is shattered. Perhaps the contrast of feeling connected to his therapist then feeling misunderstood or criticized by a significant other ushers in a deep sense of abandonment.

In other patients, the absence of a significant other is felt acutely - but the emotion is more than mere loneliness. This profound aloneness is like the awful feeling a very young child has when lost for the first time. Or like the feeling a soldier has when badly wounded, going into shock, and he or she cries out, "Mama." It is a reflex. It is a return to a state of infantile aloneness. When I spent time in Borneo studying orangutans, I heard the pitiful "lost call" of the infant orangutan when separated from its mother. Our primate ancestors have separation anxiety, too!

When they are attached, they are really attached, holding on to mother's fur 40 feet above ground on a tree limb. To become un-attached is to fall to grave injury or death on the forest floor. PTSD recreates in us many of these primitive emotions - being physically endangered; holding on to a source of sustenance; experiencing a powerful sensation of separation and abandonment that is hard to explain and is often a source of great embarrassment when it is explained.

So, in this situation, I review with my patient the biology of attachment and the fact that a feeling of abandonment when attachment is needed but broken is understandable, normal, and part of the neurology of primates. It is basic, fundamental biology. I try to coach the person into accepting this sensation (alone, abandoned) as a feeling, not prophesy of future separation and nothing to be ashamed of. The feeling does pass. It may be mitigated by forms of self-help (paradoxically, this may be a good time to be alone and not to seek attachment to a family member or friend who cannot fully appreciate the situation). The self-help could include web-based reminders of how PTSD works, of soothing or diverting images, or of inspirational articles and poetry.

There may be other sensations -- other than separation and abandonment -- that arise after finishing a therapy session. But this feeling of aloneness is worth recognizing. It is common. So in a very meaningful sense, you are not alone in sensing aloneness. You are part of a large family of fellow travelers who have survived trauma and are weathering its inevitable aftershocks.

Was this helpful to you?
If so, please consider supporting our work.


Article Index:

Addiction | Adoption | Auto Accidents | Chaplains, Police, EMT | Childhood & Adult Sexual Victimization | Compassion Fatigue
Culture, Race, and Ethnicity | Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault | Grief | Journalists, Survivors, and the Media
Male Sexual Abuse & Domestic Violence | Partners & Families | PTSD Treatment & Recovery | PTSD and Health
PTSD and Workplace Issues | Recovery & Self Help | Resiliency | School Disasters
Spirituality & Trauma | Survivor Guilt | Trauma Responses in the Aftermath of Disasters | Veterans & Their Families

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Home Page | Site Map | Articles | Webcasts | Order Form | DVDs on PTSD and Trauma | Q&A with Dr. Ochberg
PTSD Etiquette: Finding The Right Words | Meditations | Support Pals Humor Grab Bag
Support Pals Share Inspirational Stories | Support Pals Share Favorite Healing Ideas | Support Pals Book Reviews
Support Pals Finding A Therapist | Support Pals Talk About Living With PTSD | Support Pals Favorite Books & Music
Support Pals Discuss: What PTSD Means To Me | Military Family Resources | Support Groups | Internet Links | Retreats & Respites
Conferences, Workshops and Seminars | PTSD & Trauma Bookstore | Poetry | Art | Music | Survivor Psalm | Memory Shouldn't Be...
Mission Statement | What People Are Saying | Support GFW | Frank Ochberg's Bio | Joyce Boaz's Bio | Board Members | Contact Us
Awards | Band of Angels | What's New | View Our PSAs | Site Search | Guestbook

Copyright © 1995 - 2020 Gift from Within,Camden, Maine 04843
html Conversion Copyright © 1995 - 2020 SourceMaine, Belfast, Maine 04915
Content may not be reproduced on websites without express permission. Please link instead.

Page created on 30 December 2013
Last updated by on 15 May 2019