The link between PTSD and anxiety
We are born with the ability to learn and to adapt to our environments. From birth, our parents or primary caretakers are our natural sources of security and nurturing. As such, we instinctively form intimate bonds with them. During the childhood growth process, we take cues from outsiders, but we remain predominantly bound to our primary caretakers and the home environment they create.
The behaviour of our caretakers, as well as growing childhood awareness of acceptable social standards and expectations, determine how we adapt to life in general. These adaptations shape our emotional development in childhood and predict our behaviour in adulthood.
If primary caretakers underperform or misbehave, we become insecure and adapt to the situation by developing our own survival strategies. Insecurity and inept strategies resulting from distressing conditions that we did not create and struggle to control, spawn anger and anxiety and culminate in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Childhood trauma, anger and anxiety
Children observe the lifestyles of other people and sense when their own circumstances are unacceptable. When they cannot change their circumstances, they adjust to them by implementing their own survival mechanisms. These adaptations are usually unhealthy and lead to pervasive and multi-faceted symptomatology that sets the stage for visceral neuroses in adulthood.
Anger and anxiety feature prominently in the process:
Parents who, themselves, grew up in dysfunctional homes are often unable to manage their own family environment in adulthood or to provide proper guidance to their children. Other primary caretakers may incorrectly motivate children and tend to be insensitive to the emotions they invoke.
They may abuse drugs and cause collateral damage such as that sustained by children of alcoholics. Others impose immoderate ethics, such as neglect, physical abuse and setting excessive disciplinary rules or rigid, unrealistic goals.
When children are subjected to distressing circumstances over which they have little or no control, they feel violated and hopeless. It causes frustration, resentment and anger.
Anger is expressed in various ways, including:
Expressed by communicating displeasure in a controlled, reasonable manner to influence adversaries and to defuse anger-tension without resorting to aggression. In dysfunctional families or homes, children’s exhortations are usually dismissed as inconsequential or insubordinate. As a result, they do not attain this positive anger management technique.
Acts of physical and verbal aggression, including violence against others and destruction of property. Can be directed inwards, resulting in critical emotional and physical self-destructive behaviour. These tendencies can accompany them into adulthood.
When exposed to the distressing consequences of violence, or coerced into hiding shameful abuse, children perceive their anger-response as a defect that must be suppressed. They are conditioned not to explore, expose or communicate their anger issues. The inability to vent their feelings affects their relationships with others and inflates the potentiality of explosive destructive behaviour in the present and future.
Research into developmental trauma has shown that higher levels of anger edify anxiety. Internalised anger, a common denominator in children from dysfunctional backgrounds, is an even stronger known predictor of long-term anxiety.
Conversely, anxiety leads to a persistent fight or flight response, where fight mode manifests in anger and flight mode can also prompt anger when the escape route is compromised. In dysfunctional homes children are simultaneously exposed to both and remain in a constant state of hyper-arousal.
In general, an abusive childhood involves anger and anxiety as natural consequences of feeling like you must engage in a ceaseless struggle (anger) against undeserved threats (anxiety) on a daily basis. To summarise; anxiety can raise anger and anger can fuel anxiety.
Coping with anxiety
Self-help solutions for mild to moderate anxiety and anger management abound, but the complex residue of childhood trauma renders such advice ineffectual for victims of PTSD. They must navigate a maze of unresolved influences that range beyond the facile nature of self-healing.
Unfortunately, abuse of addictive substances is often the preferred coping mechanism of PTSD sufferers. Rather than obtaining healthy coping skills they opt for this temporary solution to soothe the anxiety, but the resultant substance abuse disorder aggravates their condition.
Prescribed medication can alleviate the symptoms of PTSD-related anxiety, but they present contra-indicators such as side effects, incompatibility with other medications and dependency risks. However, in certain cases controlled usage may be required.
In severe situations, anxiety can prompt suicidal inclinations. If there is any sign of potential self-harm, the person should immediately be submitted to a hospital or therapeutic institute.
To heal PTSD, anxiety and its related symptoms, patients need to develop effective cognitive skills to overcome specific sensitivities and comorbid afflictions. They require professional psychotherapeutic evaluation to identify the links between cause and effect. A multidimensional, intensive treatment programme must then be tailored for the individual in order to simultaneously heal PTSD and the comorbid conditions.
Understanding Panic Attacks and Anxiety
Panic attacks are sudden feelings of intense fear where you may lose control over your emotions and reactions. Panic attacks last for relatively short periods of time (from a few minutes to a few hours) before they subside. Anxiety is more than occasional panic attacks or stress. Anxiety can lead to or worsen a range of other mental and physical conditions if left untreated. Frequent panic attacks trigger trauma-based “fight or flight” responses in those highly activated states where you may be exposed to overreactions and inflicting some form of injury or damage to yourself or others.
Please Note: Self-diagnosis and recovery practices based on information extracted from the world wide web and unconsidered websites may be inaccurate. Should you believe you may be suffering from a mental health issue, always speak to a certified therapist for personal advice applicable to your circumstances.