PTSD is Mental Injury not Mental Illness

Types of PTSD

Simple PTSD is a reaction of the adolescent or adult subconscious mind to a single violent experience. (Caused by events such as: Car accidents, fires, natural disasters, etc… and is limited normally to single events)

Combat PTSD is the reaction of the adult subconscious mind to multiple short-term violent events experienced during acts of war or aggression. (Normally affects Military, Law Enforcement, Medical Professionals, Emergency Responders, etc…)

Complex PTSD is the reaction of the adolescent subconscious mind to prolonged exposures to multiple violent/abusive experiences lasting weeks, months, or years. Moreover, the longer the exposure to the violence, the more difficult it becomes to resolve the effects of CPTSD. (Normally starts in early childhood and continues into adult hood)

Mental Illness (Paranoia) verses PTSD (Hyper-vigilance)

  • paranoia is a form of mental illness; the cause is thought to be internal, such as minor variation in the balance of brain chemistry
  • paranoia tends to endure and to not get better of its own accord
  • the paranoiac will not admit to feeling paranoid, as they cannot see their paranoia
  • sometimes responds to drug treatment
  • the delusional aspects of paranoia are feature in other forms of mental illness, i.e. schizophrenia
  • the paranoiac is convinced of their self-importance
  • paranoia is often seen in conjunction with other symptoms of mental illness, but not in conjunction with symptoms of PTSD
  • the paranoiac is convinced of their plausibility
  • the paranoiac feels persecuted by a person or persons unknown (e.g. “they’re out to get me”)
  • sense of persecution
  • the sense of persecution felt by the paranoiac is a delusion, for usually no-one is out to get them
  • the paranoiac is on constant alert because they know someone is out to get them
  • the paranoiac is certain of their belief and their behavior and expects others to share that certainty
Hyper vigilance
  • is a response to an external event (violence, accident, disaster, violation, intrusion, bullying, etc) and therefore an injury
  • wears off (gets better), albeit slowly, when the person is out of and away from the situation which was the cause
  • the hyper vigilant person is acutely aware of their hyper vigilance, and will easily articulate their fear, albeit using the incorrect but popularized word “paranoia”
  • drugs are not viewed favorably by hyper vigilant people, except in extreme circumstances, and then only briefly; often drugs have no effect, or can make things worse, sometimes interfering with the body’s own healing process
  • the hyper vigilant person often has a diminished sense of self-worth, sometimes dramatically so
  • the hyper vigilant person is often convinced of their worthlessness and will often deny their value to others
  • hyper vigilance is seen in conjunction with other symptoms of PTSD, but not in conjunction with symptoms of mental illness
  • the hyper vigilant person is aware of how implausible their experience sounds and often doesn’t want to believe it themselves (disbelief and denial)
  • the hyper vigilant person is hyper sensitized but is often aware of the inappropriateness of their heightened sensitivity, and can identify the person responsible for their psychiatric injury
  • heightened sense of vulnerability to victimization
  • the hyper vigilant person’s sense of threat is well-founded.
  • the hyper vigilant person is on alert in case there is danger
  • the hyper vigilant person cannot bring themselves to believe that other people cannot and will not see the effect their behavior is having; they cling naively to the mistaken belief that other people will recognize their wrongdoing and apologize

Common features of Complex PTSD:

People suffering Complex PTSD report consistent symptoms, which further help to characterize psychiatric injury and differentiate it from mental illness. These include:

• Fatigue with symptoms of or similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (formerly ME)

• An anger of injustice stimulated to an excessive degree (sometimes but improperly attracting the words “manic” instead of motivated, “obsessive” instead of focused, and “angry” instead of “passionate”, especially from those with something to fear)

• An overwhelming desire for acknowledgement, understanding, recognition, and validation of their experience

• A simultaneous and paradoxical unwillingness to talk about the situation or abuse

• A lack of desire for revenge, but a strong motivation for justice

• A tendency to oscillate between conciliation (forgiveness) and anger (revenge) with objectivity being the main casualty

• Tendency towards isolation

• Extreme fragility, where formerly the person was of a strong, stable character

• Numbness, both physical (toes, fingertips, and lips) and emotional (inability to feel love and joy)

• Clumsiness

• Forgetfulness

• Sense of betrayal

• Difficultly in establishing true and meaningful friendships

• Hyperawareness and an acute sense of time passing, seasons changing, and distances travelled

• An enhanced environmental awareness, often on a planetary scale

• An appreciation of the need to adopt a healthier diet

• Willingness to try complementary medicine and alternative, holistic therapies, etc

• A constant feeling that one has to justify everything one says and does

• A constant need to prove oneself, even when surrounded by good, positive people

• An unusually strong sense of vulnerability, victimization or possible victimization, often wrongly diagnosed as “persecution”

• Occasional violent intrusive visualizations

• Feelings of worthlessness, rejection, a sense of being unwanted, unlikeable, and unlovable

• Extreme loneliness

• A feeling of being small, insignificant, and invisible

• An overwhelming sense of betrayal and views the appearance of betrayal as a personal rejection leading to further isolation

• An inability to trust others, especially those in close personal relationships


The fatigue is understandable when you realize that the fight or flight mechanism eventually becomes highly activated in a person with CPTSD.

The fight or flight mechanism is designed to be operational only briefly and intermittently; in the heightened state of alert, the body consumes abnormally high levels of energy. If this state becomes semi-permanent, the body’s physical, mental, and emotional batteries are drained dry. Whilst the weekend theoretically is a time for the batteries to recharge, this does not happen, because:

• the person is by now obsessed with the situation (or rather, resolving the situation), cannot switch off, may be unable to sleep, and probably has nightmares, flashbacks and replays;

• sleep is non-restorative and un-refreshing – one goes to sleep tired and wakes up tired

• this type of experience plays havoc with the immune system; when the fight or flight system is eventually switched off, the immune system is impaired such that the person is open to viruses which they would under normal circumstances fight off; the person then spends each weekend with a cold, cough, flu, glandular fever, laryngitis, ear infection etc so the body’s batteries never have an opportunity to recharge.

When activated, the body’s fight or flight response results in the digestive, immune, and reproductive systems being placed on standby. It’s no coincidence that people experiencing constant abuse, harassment and bullying report malfunctions related to these systems (loss of appetite, constant infections, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, loss of libido, impotence, etc). The body becomes awash with cortisol which in high-prolonged doses is toxic to brain cells. Cortisol kills off Nero-receptors in the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked with learning and memory. The hippocampus is also the control centre for the fight or flight response, thus the ability to control the fight or flight mechanism itself becomes impaired.

Common symptoms of CPTSD

The symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly unexpectedly. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell. While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms, as listed below.

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event
  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
  • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
  • Avoidance and emotional numbing
  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
  • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)
  • Increased arousal
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper vigilance (on constant “red alert”)
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled

Other common symptoms

• Anger and irritability

• Guilt, shame, or self-blame

• Substance abuse

• Depression and hopelessness

• Suicidal thoughts and feelings

• Feeling alienated and alone

• Feelings of mistrust and betrayal

• Headaches, stomach problems, chest pain

Compiled By:
Guy Lewis
Payson, Arizona
Thursday, May 27, 2010


6 thoughts on “PTSD is Mental Injury not Mental Illness

  1. My suggestion would be to find out. Seek out a good psychologist and get yourself tested.

    Once you know if you have any form of PTSD, you can than start the journey to recovery from the control of this condition and move towards a more peaceful life.


  2. So if one does suffer from complex PTSD then what does one do to help themselves and what type of therapy is needed.

  3. Janet, what I would suggest is finding a good and qualified psychologist that has accredited experience treating people with PTSD. Have them give you a thorough battery of test to determine the full nature of your PTSD condition. The process of recovery from PTSD will not be easy and it will take a long time to reverse the injury cause by the long-term traumatic exposure. The process may require medication to combat the terrors associated with complex PTSD.

    Your states board of psychology should be able to give you a long list of qualified psychologists to interview and select a suitable practitioner.

    A workbook that I have found extremely useful is: “The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook” by Matthew McKay, Ph. D., Jeffery Wood, Psy. D., and jeffrey Brantley, M.D. It is a New Harbinger publication. The ISBN number is 13:978-1-57224-513-6.


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