When Adam got gay bashed walking done the street holding his boyfriend’s hand. He did not expect the emotional aftermath to be worse off than his broken nose and jaw. He started experiencing flashbacks and nightmares. He felt jumpy and on edge most of the time. He also felt fearful most of the time and started to avoid going out with his boyfriend. After a few months of experiencing these symptoms, Adam started to feel that the he was “damaged goods” and will never be the same again.
What Adam is experiencing is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This often occurs when our sense of safety has been threatened. Any event that is emotionally salient (regardless of the magnitude of the event) which threatens our safety can give rise to PTSD.
PTSD occurs NOT because of a lack of willpower or because we are “weak”. The symptoms are a result of learning under extreme emotional arousal. When we learn under this condition, the memory of the event gets stored in mint condition (i.e., it is an abnormal memory). Any little thing can trigger this abnormal memory and cause us to recall all the details of the event. We experience the event as if it were happening again. We can smell the scents, experience the same physical sensation. See the images realistically in our minds, and experience the same fears and emotions we did.