Stalking and PTSD
The obsessive pursuit of another has, for quite some time, been portrayed in scientific and fiction literature, but was conceptualized as “stalking” only recently – first, came under the guise of celebrity stalking and, then, as a public health issue known to be affecting the general population. A meaningful working definition of stalking goes as “the malicious, willful, and repeated following of another person that compromises his/her safety.” Everyday stalking victims report various, dangerous, life-changing effects from being stalked, including mental, physical, and social harm. They ordinarily experience mood, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that require immediate assessment and treatment.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), on the other hand, is a mental disorder that can happen in individuals who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic situation like a natural disaster, terrorist act, a severe accident, rape, war, stalking, or other vicious personal assaults. This condition has been called numerous names in the past, like “shell shock” during the periods of World War I and II and the combat fatigue after.
In any case, PTSD doesn’t only happen to war veterans. PTSD can happen in all individuals, in people of any age, nationality, ethnicity, or culture. PTSD affects around 3.5% of U.S. adults, and an estimated one person in eleven people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime and the rate is higher in women than in men.
Emotional and Social Consequences Of Stalking
Constant harassment can have a terrible effect on a victim’s psychological health. Constant surveillance, chronic threats, and unwanted intrusion into someone’s life may prompt long-term damaging mental. The clinical results include guilt, depression, anxiety, decreased enthusiasm for activities, shame, humiliation, and an enhanced feeling of weakness that can continue beyond the period of stalking.
Friends and family may affect the situation negatively by suggesting that the victim is in some way or another responsible for encouraging the stalker. Or, in a case where the victim is stalked by an ex-partner, causing low self-esteem and guilt when people make poor judgments in relationship choices.
The effect of stalking may differ according to the victim’s attributes, past experiences, current conditions, and what they know or don’t know about their stalker. How others react to the victim’s condition, including how the stalking is treated by the authority, can impact the general effect that the stalking situation has on the person in question.
Regardless of the complexities that may vary a person’s experience and reaction to stalking, research has shown common trends of response. Although female victims typically report bigger levels of fear, research has also found that males subjected to stalking have similar impacts with those reported by their female counterparts. Though not comprehensive, the followings are some of the most common effects that stalking victims experience:
Effects of Stalking On Mental Health
- Denial, self-doubt, confusion, questioning if what’s happening is irrational, wondering if they’re over-reacting
- Embarrassment, guilt, self-blame
- Fear, Apprehension, the horror of being alone, or that they, pets, or others will be harmed.
- Feeling helpless and isolated to stop the stalking
- Anxiety, agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house, never again feeling safe) panic attacks.
- Difficulty attending, concentrating and remembering things
- Inability to sleep – ruminating, nightmares
- Irritability, homicidal thoughts, anger
How Does PTSD Happen?
When trauma occurs, your body reacts to a threat by going into “fight or flight” mode. It releases stress hormones, like norepinephrine and adrenaline, to give you a surge of energy. It makes your heart beat faster. Your brain likewise puts some of its tasks, like short-term memories on hold. PTSD makes your brain stuck in danger mode.
Considerably after you are no longer at risk, it remains on high alarm. Your body keeps on sending out stress signals that lead to PTSD symptoms. Research shows that the area of the brain that manages emotion and fear (the amygdala) is highly active in people with PTSD. After some time, PTSD changes your brain. The region that takes care of your memory (the hippocampus) decreases. That is one reason experts recommend that you undergo treatment early.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD develops uniquely from one person to the other since everybody’s tolerance for stress, and nervous system is somewhat different. While you are likely to develop signs of PTSD in the hours or days after a traumatic experience, it can sometimes take days, weeks, months, or even a very long time before they start showing. Sometimes symptoms can show up unexpectedly. Other times, they’re triggered by events that remind you of the original traumatic experience, for instance, an image, a noise, a smell, or specific words.
While people experience PTSD differently, there are four fundamental types of PTSD symptoms;
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event via flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares, intense physical, or mental reactions when reminded of the event.
- Numbing and avoidance, such as staying away from whatever reminds you of the traumatic event, being unable to remember parts of the ordeal, lost enthusiasm for activities and life overall, feeling down emotionally and isolated from family and friends, and a sense of a restricted future.
- Hyperarousal, including irritability, sleep problems, hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”), feeling anxious or easily startled, aggressive and angry outbursts, reckless behavior, or self-destructive.
- Mood changes and negative thought idea feeling alone and alienated, difficulty remembering or concentrating, hopelessness and depression, feeling betrayal and mistrust, and feeling self-blame, guilt, or shame.
Stalking and PTSD
PTSD is sometimes caused by stalking and dealing with that invasion of privacy. Something vital to remember about PTSD is that the P means “post” implying that the symptoms come after the traumatic event. For example, if an individual is currently being stalked, then the symptoms are not a disorder. Instead, the symptoms are adaptive to that individual’s survival.
For instance, it might seem helpful to do the usual things like switching up one’s routine and changing one’s passwords every now and then when being stalked; however, it may not be so helpful once the stalking experience is over. PTSD is diagnosed once the event is over, and the person is still behaving as though the threat is present and real.
Here is another example – if your partner or parent triple checks your messages immediately, you walk out the room, it may bode well to be on alert, clearing emails and texts from friends and other sources so there wouldn’t be any argument at home. If your partner or parent shakes you and yells at you for an hour when they find through GPS tracking that you paid a friend visit for lunch outside of your regular route to and from school or a part-time job, this may cause huge trouble to you, the person in question.
Be that as it may, the trouble is a justifiable reaction because every time you are questioned about your location, you experienced a new trauma. Anxiety and depression disorders are likewise typically identified with stalking.
Before undergoing treatment for PTSD, a rigorous assessment of your signs will be done to guarantee treatment is tailored to your personal needs. Your GP will often do an initial assessment; however, you will be referred to a psychological health specialist for further evaluation and treatment if you’ve had the symptoms of PTSD for about a month or your symptoms are serious. There’re various mental health doctors you may see if you have the symptoms of PTSD, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, or community psychiatric.
Posttraumatic stress disorder treatment can help you to regain a feeling of control in your life. The primary treatment is psychotherapy; however, it can likewise include medication. When these treatments are combined, they can improve your symptoms by:
- Teaching you skills to deal with your symptoms
- Helping you to think better about you and the rest of the world
- Learning methods to adapt if any symptoms emerge again
- Treating other issues often identified with traumatic experiences like anxiety, depression, or misuse of drugs or alcohol. You don’t need to deal with the weight of PTSD all alone.
Many types of psychotherapy, likewise, called talk therapy, could be used to treat adults and children with PTSD. Among the types of psychotherapy used in treating people with PTSD include:
- Cognitive Therapy: This kind of talk therapy causes you to recognize the thinking perspectives (cognitive patterns) that tie you to the event — for instance, negative convictions about yourself and the risk of the trauma occurring again. For PTSD, this method is often used alongside exposure therapy.
- Exposure Therapy: This behavioral kind of treatment helps you to safely confront both memories and situations that you find startling so you can figure out how to cope with them viably. Exposure therapy could be specifically helpful for nightmares and flashbacks. One methodology utilizes VR programs that enable you to enter the settings in which you had the trauma.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR consolidates exposure therapy with a sequence of guided eye movements that help you to process traumatic memories and change how you respond to them.
Your therapist can assist you in developing stress management skills to enable you to deal with stressful events and cope with other stress in your life. All these methods can help you regain control of enduring fear after a traumatic situation. You and your psychological health specialist can talk about what kind of therapy or combination of therapies may best address your issues. You may try group therapy, individual, or both. Group therapy offers a means to connect with others experiencing similar situations.
Antidepressants are, in some cases, used to treat PTSD in adults. They could only be used if:
- you decide not to have trauma-focus treatment
- psychological treatment would not be viable because there is an ongoing threat of future trauma
- you have gained next to zero benefits from a course of trauma-focused treatment
- you have an underlying ailment, for example, extreme depression. This could influence your capability to profit from psychological therapy.
If medication for PTSD is successful, it will generally be continued for at least a year. It might then be withdrawn through the span of about a month or more. If medication is not effective at reducing your signs, your dose may be increased. Before recommending a drug, your physician will tell you about possible side effects that you may experience while taking it. They will likewise tell you about any possible withdrawal side effects when the medication is withdrawn. Withdrawal signs are less likely if the medication is reduced gradually.
Reach Out to Others for Support
PTSD can cause you to feel disconnected from others. You might be tempted to pull back from your loved ones and social activities. Be that as it may, it’s critical to remain connected to life and those who care about you. You do not need to discuss the trauma if you would prefer not to; however, the caring support and friendship of others are crucial to your recovery. Reach out to somebody you can connect with for uninterrupted time, somebody who will listen when you talk without criticizing, judging, or always getting interrupted. The person could be your partner, a relative, a companion, or a therapist here at Hillcrest.
Additionally, you could try:
- Volunteering your time or connecting with someone in need: This is not just a decent way to link up with others; however, it can likewise help you regain your sense of control.
- Joining a PTSD support group: Joining this sort of group can help you feel less alone and isolated and likewise offer essential information on how to manage symptoms and work towards healing.
PTSD can be effectively treated many years after the horrendous event or events happened, which implies it is never too late to look for help. Severe social, occupational, and emotional consequences are related to the ongoing harassment and pursuit experienced by stalking victims. Therapists should provide an empathic and supportive environment. They should avoid revictimizing the patient and know about countertransference reactions that can possibly meddle with treatment.
Stalking victims may need a variety of things such as counseling, education, possible medications, and comprehension of practical safety problems. Recovering from PTSD takes time. For many individuals, ailment poses lifelong challenges that exist long after they’ve experienced the initial trauma. Nonetheless, these teens can cope with their symptoms and enjoy an excellent quality of life once they get the help that they need.
Here at Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center, we understand how teens dealing with PTSD can suffer in their day to day lives. Because of our experience working with teenagers that are dealing with mental health issues such as PTSD, we believe that we are a fantastic place to send your teenager for help with developing coping mechanisms for their PTSD – or any other form of mental health issue. Not sure how we can help? Why not contact us to learn how we may support or to set up a tour?