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Shock With PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Discussion in 'General' started by Evelyn, Oct 19, 2005.

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  1. Evelyn

    Evelyn Social Work Counsellor

    Good morning all, (It’s 12am here, 2am now that I’ve finished writing)

    I’m very sorry for not replying to your posts sooner. Sorry to hear some of you have been unwell. I have had such a crazy time since I posted last. I have been up to my ears in work and finishing assignments for uni. I’m in my final year of the social work degree completing two subjects (5 weeks to go and fast running out of time) plus I still have another 8 weeks until if finish my placement at the PTSD Unit. Although I have been on holidays for two weeks I have still been working and feel like I haven’t had a break between the two cohorts so I’m feeling a little drained at the moment.

    I just wanted to tell you about an incident I recently assisted in a few days ago and also wanted to ask you a couple of questions to clarify a few things for my own learning. While you are reading or thinking about some of these questions please be very mindful about your breathing rate and your body responses. You should be able to control your breathing and feel moderately relaxed without feeling distressed. If you do however feel that any of these questions begin to upset or trouble you or you feel like you may need help, please stop reading take 5 deep deep breaths and you may need to walk away from the computer for a little while and drink some water. This is not intended to upset you but just in case, you should be prepared and know how to calm down…..think about what has helped you in the past….. Anthony’s suggestions about breathing and grounding may be helpful but if it continues let me know (send a private post) and if you need, call a therapist that you trust to talk about what may have come up for you. You may need some additional support other than this forum if this is the case. Again though, you should be able to control your breathing and feel moderately relaxed without feeling distressed.

    Now that we’re all prepared, let’s start to think a little. I was called out to an emergency situation where a young girl was killed suddenly in an accident. As a counsellor I spoke to her friends and others who found her and some of the things they saw and experienced were quite shocking. I was very surprised that I was able to notice some people were already experiencing symptoms of PTSD, eg. Triggers they had associated with the incident and avoiding things that reminded them of the scene etc…. Being so recent after the event I could see that shock was still very severe for some of the clients and I could see that for some the grief or healing process could not and probably will not really begin for a while because shock was still in the way which leads me to some questions.

    I can only assume that shock would be the initial feeling experienced by someone involved in a traumatic event and for some this may last for some time. Since you are the expert of experiencing your symptoms I have some questions to ask you.

    How do you know that someone is in shock - what do they look like – their body movements, posture, speech patterns, their eyes, what do they say or what don’t they say, and what do you think they would be thinking etc……really think about it.

    Have you experience shock at some stage? If so, was it sudden or gradual, what were the circumstances? Did you know at the time you had PTSD? How could you answer the above questions about yourself - What do you think you looked like when you were/are shocked etc.? How does that make you feel to think of yourself like this?

    As I mentioned in one of my previous posts PTSD symptoms are experienced because it’s like having an alert switch left ‘on’ all the time. Do you think this alert switch is the same or different to shock?

    I’m not quite sure about that answer because I’m thinking that shock is initially experienced but I don’t know if it is continuous (always on) or intermittent (flicking between on and off because of various triggers). What do you think?

    For those with PTSD, is sock over time experienced at the same intensity as your initial experience of shock or does it eventually ease? Again I am very unsure of the answer to this question. It is a very recent question for me.

    And a final question relating to shock. (This one is mainly for me to learn from you.) If you were to see me or another therapist for counselling would it be relieving or confronting to hear that your body responses were a sign that you may be experiencing symptoms of shock? Do you think your response would be different if the session was very recent after the event (within the first 2-3 weeks) or delayed (6 months or more after the event)? How would you respond at the time if I said this (angry, cry, shake, no response) and how would that make you feel (relieved, shocked, nervous, numb)?

    I realise these questions may be confronting to you and I apologise for that, but I’m hoping that by talking through some of these things we could learn from each other and talk through experiences together by asking each other questions and supportively responding to each other.

    I may have mentioned earlier but I think it would be very beneficial to start or maintain a journal in response to some of these questions regarding your individual trauma/s and maybe bring forward some of your thoughts you came up with and additional questions that arise because of this reflection. I find that sometimes when I use a journal that I’m able to reveal information that I didn’t realise was buried which actually produces more questions that I would like answered. This is a good thing. At the end of each of my journal entries I make sure that I leave on a positive note, even if it’s simply summing up what I have noticed I have said or something I have learnt and can do after I’ve finished writing. I never want to end my journal feeling worse than I did because journaling should be a freeing exercise. If both the journal and the forum are used for reflection I’m hoping that we can go through the roller coaster journey of healing together. I really believe in that saying “time heals all wounds†and I would add to that saying “provided you do good things in that timeâ€. I believe talking or reflection is the most valuable thing we can do to heal these wounds and thankfully we have this forum to assist and support us and it can really work if we take a risk and expose things to others and ourselves.

    Again another essay post (sorry), but I have these burning questions that I’m hoping you could help answer. Good luck with your reflection and I look forward to hearing your responses.
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  3. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder


    I think shock is a natural response to a living being, when it loses place in time, and does not know what to do. Generally, the body movements are disorganised, posture not really affected, speech can have no relevance to anything you ask, or even no speech at all, their eyes are generally relaxed and confused, and generally, someone is shock isn't thinking at all IMHO.

    I've seen it, and experienced it in war zones, and generally you lose recognition of everything around you, and generally become a danger to yourself, and others.

    I had no bloody idea of anything around me, nor what was going on at the time, until a mate brought me too, even though I was awake. It was like a complete void in my life for a couple of minutes, where I needed protecting from the elements around me, as I couldn't do it myself. It was sudden for me. No, I didn't know I had PTSD at the time. I know from experience, the person generally looks dazed and confused, with no idea what is going on. The brain ceases to function on a thought perspective, and only functions to keep the body alive, and not much else. It doesn't personally bother me that it happened, but I don't particularly like not having control within a war zone at all times.

    Shock certainly doesn't make you alert, and I don't think it is anything like PTSD, in relation to being alert. Shock is generally an instantaneous feeling, where you've been injured, or something quite traumatic has just occured around you, or with you... but doesn't raise an alertness within you from being in shock. With PTSD, the symptoms are generally gradual, whether you get it from war zones or a major car accident. The incident may off been instant, but the affects are slow, and gradually take over you as your life functions, or you attempt to function, in the same way before the incident. The alert switch is generally something that also builds gradually IMO.

    I agree, I don't think its always on... its more a moment event, not continuous.

    I am assuming your relating shock to flashbacks, and those kind of things? Not all traumatic events endure shock, however; the ones that do, for me anyway, I don't feel the shock of the incident anymore, even within a flashback, as its different. Even though a flashback puts your mind back in the time and place the event happened, its like, you still know your not absolutely their, as everythings not exactly the same. The smells aren't present, and things like that. I don't honestly think I have kept shock as such, more just memories of events, which tend to be relived. The times I had been in shock, I haven't felt like that again, except when actually in shock in another incident.

    I would probably want to know how exactly! I guess my outlook on shock, is how it has happened to me. Basically, as my emotions disappeared, things played even less impact on me as time went along. Being shot at, didn't flinch me anymore... instead had the opposite affect, where I stood looking, and went at it, instead of hitting the ground. I don't see it myself as shock, but more the fear has disappeared for me. I no longer fear things that are dangerous, and life threatening. Death doesn't bother me anymore.

    I think the only thing I would get from a recent session, compared to a delayed session, would be the ease of memory to the event. Its hard for me personally to relate I guess, as I've had PTSD for so many years now, and not known about it, I still think to some degree, some things I do are normal, though they are not. I know having absolutely no fear is not normal. People fear things, even the extreme sports people, they generally don't want to die, where it doesn't bother me anymore, as my feelings and emotions towards death are gone.

    I guess if shock contains "no response" and "numb", then I fit in it, but thats all just another name to me, for something that already has multiple names.
  4. Kay Dee

    Kay Dee Member

    Kay Dee


    Wow, you have some questions to think about. When I think of shock I think of feeling immobilized, paralyzed, numb and really "spaced out." I don't know for sure if this is shock, but I have experienced these things after traumatic events, times. And I know I have experienced these things during a recollection, memory flashblack. I don't know if it was gradual or sudden. I know when I was raped I felt "far away" from everything, and emotionally numb. That was years ago though. The 5 years of therapy with the ____ therapist, I couldn't tell you if or when I felt shock. And I didn't know I had PTSD. I guess whenever there has been something traumatic my usual reaction was to go numb, space out . . . I guess someone looking at me would see me staring off in the distance, not really "with it", and possibly not responsive for a few seconds???

    I don't believe one can be in constant shock; I would think that one could be in shock intermittently. But I believe PTSD is constant. For me, it seems I'm always tense/stiff; I'm always on the move, especially at work, only to come home and "crash." Be nonfunctional. Then slowly move back into the same thing again. I tend to "over-do-it", am an over-achiever; go, go, go. PTSD and shock are definitely two different things.

    I can't really speak about the intensity of shock. I am not really sure I know "exactly" what shock is. I would think that everyone experiences it differently. I have had training on physical shock

    If you or another therapist were to tell me that body responses were a sign of shock I believe I would be relieved to find out. When I experience things I don't have control over, I definitely want to know what is happening to me.

    I have memory loss for different periods in my life. And my short term memory now stinks. And it seems to be getting worse. I could tell you more about my childhood, teens than I could about the last six months of my life.

    I hope I was somewhat helpful in answering your questions. If you have any others, just let me know.
  5. camry

    camry Member

    New here, so hello to all.

    How do you know that someone is in shock - what do they look like – their body movements, posture, speech patterns, their eyes, what do they say or what don’t they say, and what do you think they would be thinking etc……really think about it.

    Not sure I can answer that one. I've had a few episodes of shock, and I think I have noticed a difference between the different reactions. So I imagine everyone's reaction would be different outwardly, unless you knew to expect the shock because you have known of the preceding event that caused it.

    Have you experience shock at some stage? If so, was it sudden or gradual, what were the circumstances? Did you know at the time you had PTSD? How could you answer the above questions about yourself - What do you think you looked like when you were/are shocked etc.? How does that make you feel to think of yourself like this?

    When I had an adrenaline overload during the event that caused the shock, shock took some time to set in, I operated on automated pilot. When the shock has just hit out of the blue, it was more suffocating and I felt very claustrophobic.

    adrenaline induced - I don't know if you can tell right away, except for the heavy breathing. I'm told my pupils were huge, but I was acting quite rationally & calmly. It wasnt until everyone was gone that shock set in properly, then it was just a enveloping blackness, tightness of chest, and totally devoid of any thought. It was like my brain had to reboot, data overload.

    unexpected shock - a lot of eye movement around the place, but focussing on nothing. Hearing but not listening. I found it hard to breathe & felt like people in the room were using up my oxygen and too close in proximity.

    I couldnt have diagnosed myself as having anything, and I certainly wasnt aware or concerned about what I looked like. When I had the adrenalined induced episode, I know I expected shock to set in eventually, so tried to prepare for it somewhat.

    Do you think this alert switch is the same or different to shock?

    I'm not sure that shock can be switched on again, but depending on the situation I am sure that it manifests the same symptoms. Having a similar set of circumstances ocurring that are the same as what happened with the original trigger can cause a body shutdown - but the recovery time is shorter, I have experienced that before. Maybe it is possible to have "pre-event shock" & "post-event shock" symptoms.

    For those with PTSD, is sock over time experienced at the same intensity as your initial experience of shock or does it eventually ease?

    I'd have to say mine intensified. The "why me" syndrome set in.

    If you were to see me or another therapist for counselling would it be relieving or confronting to hear that your body responses were a sign that you may be experiencing symptoms of shock? ....

    In retrospect, I would have liked to know that I wasn't like an outcast with what I was feeling... but back 20 odd years ago, it was usually fixed with medication, which I wasn't a fan of. So it was heal thyself.
  6. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Hi Camry, and welcome. Good to have a new voice here...
  7. alexbarber

    alexbarber New Member

    hi sweety
    i had severe shock after my accident and although i cant remember what happend i was carrying on like nothing happend to the point where thay had to slap me to get some sort of emotional response.then i was shaking and all sorts of shit.cant talk 4 long but see you
  8. Song_Ben_Hai_Ma

    Song_Ben_Hai_Ma New Member

    Hello Evelyn,

    Name here is Carl,

    After one event near the DMZ, after killing a man, I had made my way
    back to the ARVN OP at Gio Linh ( OP A-2 N of the village.

    There in the dark, I had crawled into the tall grass waiting for sun rise to enter the OP. Laying there in the grass...I began to feel cold, colder and colder. I had drawn my weapon( M3A1) in hand up to use as a pillow.
    But after a while my hand was so cold ( I was so cold that I pulled the weapon down and curled up around it, and put my hands between my legs.

    I was shaking uncontrolable, keeping my teeth apart, and praying that God would let me sleep away the thoughts, ...and the terrable chill....
    at some point I did fall asleep...

    Later in tye sun I walked into A-2, The Vietnamese guards asked,
    "Moore...where you go, where you been moore.."
    I couldn't answer them...I could only poit in the general direction of where
    I had been the night before. I just wanted to get the blood off of me, I wanted to cry, but walked on...numb to all but the feeling ...saddness
    ...I wanted to disappear from the world.
    The ARVNs all thought I was brave...buut I was simply addicted to
    adrenaline.... That time though... I got too much of it...

    There were other events... but that was the only event that II tasted the mans blood, and still have some memory loss It was bloody awful...
    ....It was 90degF and humid, and the air heavy and dead calm...but I shook for hours !
    That is my experence with Adrenialine Shock ..freeking awful


    There were lesser event... nerve-racking IE;
    ....(picture takes a minute to size down )
    Please if you respond, send copy to me via email address ....
    [email protected] or me at;
    [email protected]

    Attached Files:

  9. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Hi Carl, and welcome mate. Good to have a viet vet here to help share some experiences from that era.
  10. lizagirrl

    lizagirrl New Member


    It was only recently that I found out it was PTSD I had. I have been to a therapist for it. For myself it was a by product of both shock and depression. My body's protection of itself. I ate and I breathed, very rarely ventured out from my apartment. This may sound strange, but the shock was both sudden and gradual. There were triggers such as certain noises, certain cars. A strange sense of deja vu before the panic set in. And sometimes there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for it, one minute your fine and the next moment you cannot think or feel anything other than overwhelmed. Crying for no reason, and numb the next moment. I went through every stage of grief, I grieved for the life I used to have, the person I used to be. Journal writing helped identify triggers, assisted in the management of it all. Mostly though, my shock manifested itself in no emotional response. I spoke of things...injuries, personal horrors that would make any normal person cringe, with nothing more than a blink of an eye, and a flat voice. When the symptoms are severe and you are physically immobilized, your mind does the only thing available to you...it flees. In everything, daily life, speech pattern, you go somewhere inside where the horror cannot touch you. And the only voice that reaches you is your own. Shut out the world, even if it is the one that belongs to you.
  11. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Wow Liz... that really stands out to me. You just put so much more into words I understand. Thankyou.

    I often wonder how the shock of my past hits me, and I think you just put that into perspective for me. I know I curl up inside, go quiet, basically just don't let anyone in, but hadn't really thought about it like you just stated. Thanks.
  12. lizagirrl

    lizagirrl New Member

    Glad to help..

    Even in my quiet moments, I always had the words. I am glad they offer you comfort. At times, for me, having the words, the understanding, was a curse. Those times where, as you did, I just curled up within myself, knowing what was causing it, yet it was like watching a movie. Watching someone else crying or just sitting there blankly. Watching this stranger sit day after day on a worn couch, not leaving the apartment for days. Eventually it took it's toll on my relationships. I couldn't bear the grief of what I had become, and it hurt to have someone else witness it. Demoralizing in a way. So I let go of the one person I had loved the most in the world. And I keep going on, trying to stay busy as possible to keep those places in my mind shoved back. I try not to give them room to grow. It's a struggle.

    I honestly thank this website. The people present have just given me the first sense of normalcy I have felt in a long while. I hear about people struggling with PTSD, read about them occasionally. But let me put it this way, a friend of mine, who is a police officer, tells me about the people he deals with. He talked about dealing with life in general, got quite arrogant when he discussed all that he had been through. I explained to him that in the life of those people he never sees the end of the story, never has to deal with the aftermath. That he is, for the people he deals with, only part of "the night the cops came". Seems off topic I know, but what it reminds me of is the articles/stories I read about PTSD. They are statistical/factual, the human element in a good many of the articles is bled out. So the actual moral of my "story" is this; this forum is the only place the true human element exists. When people suffer trauma, it is dehumanizing, demoralizing. You stop seeing yourself as real. It helps to see someone else feels it too. I like to call it the "I'm not crazy" factor. It helps tremendously.
  13. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Bingo... this was the little tidbit I figured during my PTSD course, hence the forum was built to continue what I thought, the lets keep sane remedy.
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