Thursday, May 21, 2009

Meandering Michele's Mind: PTSD is a Hard Habit to Break

I hear over and over that 98% of what we do every day is by habit. And I read recently that 95% of the population is habituated. The psych community has assured us it takes 21 days to form a habit. And the breaking habits pros say it takes just as long to replace bad habits with good.

All this has me thinking about how those numbers apply to the PTSD experience. As in:

To what extent do and have we become 1) habituated to PTSD and, 2) habitual in our PTSD so that these involuntary actions and reactions are part of our unconscious approach to every day?

And if (as of course, we do) we say that, yes, PTSD has become habitual, then doesn’t that mean that another way we can strive to overcome it is by breaking the PTSD habit??

I did some research; there’s actually a lot of info out there about how to break a habit. Check out these step by step guides:

How To Break A Habit

And then let me know what you think. 21 days to break a regular habit might be a little ambitious for PTSD, but the theory and actions are grounded in really positive changes that we can immediately put into effect.

Without thinking about it all this clearly, my decision to pursue joy was a way to break the PTSD habit. And it worked. In spades.

Which makes me think that an additional therapuetic tool can be consciously taking actions to break the PTSD habit. Do you agree, or disagree?

(Photo: Colin Key)


Anonymous said...

When I underwent EMDR, I was skeptical and worried - it all seemed so miraculous (still does) that my PTSD symptoms could on the whole, vanish so quickly.

But they did and have.

I asked my therapist about this, and if it would 'last' or if it would all come back.

Her answer was, that once you've been through trauma and suffered PTSD, you are probably always a little more susceptible.

And, there may very well be events in the future that trigger reactions. But, at least I know now, how to resolve them effectively.

True. But I did have thoughts about the 'habit' of PTSD. Of cowering, hiding away from other people and not allowing myself to be fearless, in the face of unknown circumstances.

And I realised that to a certain extent, this is my deal. Its up to me how I handle life after most of the worst of my PTSD is over.

I can run with the blessed opportunity I've been given (freedom from flashbacks and agrophobia) or I can expect that all to return any minute.

I choose to live bravely. Or at least I'm trying to, one step at a time.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Svasti - I said exactly the same thing after hypnosis! Called my hypno and told her I was feeling so at peace it was making me anxious, and when was it all going to go away because I wanted to be ready to go back to PTSD hell.

Funny, how badly we want to heal and then don't trust it when we do.

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