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The Ptsd Cup Explanation

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Many people with PTSD struggle to understand why they fly off the handle at such little things, i.e., the toilet roll is around the wrong way, someone walked in front of you, that stranger looked at you, etc etc. The reason is actually quite simple, and easier to show than often explain, why those with PTSD tend to get angry quicker, more easily, and faster than others at little stupid things.


Let me explain this little image above, and you will better understand the difference to those with PTSD, and those without.

Cup 1

Whether you realise it or not, everybody has this thing called “good stress” in their life, which consists of such things as getting out of bed, day to day tasks, going to work, cooking dinner, etc etc. No problems with that one.

Cup 2

The obvious, when something goes wrong, or is really hindering you, is generally classified as “bad stress”, which consists such things as paying bills, money, relationships, getting fired from your job, etc etc etc. Everybody gets bad stress at some stage within their day; it just depends on the amount, and the person themself.

Now, as you can see, Cup 2 represents a normal person, and with both good and bad stress. They still have lots of room in their cup without overflowing (exploding, rage, anger, etc etc). A normal person can take a lot of stress within their daily life, before being pushed over the edge.

Cup 3 (PTSD Sufferers)

Now whilst we still have both good and bad stress, there is now this thing called “PTSD” in our cup. The problem with that is that we still have the same amount of good and bad stress as everyone else, though we also have this big chunk of PTSD which contains our traumas and more.

As you can see from this cup, with good stress and PTSD, you really don’t have much room for anything else. You can see by the “bad stress” representation at the top of the cup, it is quite small compared to Cup 2 – thus this is why something so small and insignificant can make someone with PTSD fly off the handle so quickly (anger). A little “bad stress” for a person with PTSD, and they overflow quite quickly compared to anyone else.
Thank You for placing "The Cup Theory" in such a prominent place.Seems that when I needed it most in the past I would forget how to find it. I am using this as a daily reminder to keep my cool with mother and my life. It is helping me keep my temper in check---sorta !Anyway, to repeat myself, Anthony--Thank You!
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H-m-m-m. I have always wondered about that. My form of anger is not to fly off the handle but to disassociate or silently try to become invisible and leave physically. The cup analogy works beautifully to help me understand why I seem to be able to take so little 'flack' from my family with each other or aimed at me. Thank you, Anthony.
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Hello Anthony.
I found this article very helpful and extremely relevant to my behaviour at present.

I have begun my healing journey. I am attending two courses currently. 1. Boundaries 2) Anger Change.

This article has made me ackowledge that I do suffer PTSD.

I would like to adhere to the rules and regulations of this forum. I know with your support I will be healed.
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At for long time I never understand why I get upset or sensitive over little thing that makes it so big. Until I see that article I felt that was the answer to my not able understand what is happening to me. OH there isnt much room in cup for my emotions or situation so I "overreact" or get upset easily. Good article and good concept!
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