Post-Traumatic Growth

Can one of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) be Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG)?

I recently finished OPTION B by Sheryl Sandberg.  As a memoir, it worked.  I am less impressed by the rest of the book.  I did come away with one new (to me) idea … that PTSD could have eventual benefits.  Those benefits equate to personal growth and Nietzsche’s famous quotation:  What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Wikipedia DefinitionPosttraumatic growth (PTG) or benefit finding is positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.

The circumstances surrounding a period of post traumatic growth present significant challenges to the individual’s ability to adapt and to their way of understanding the world and their place in it.  Meeting those challenges leads to personal growth and increases resilience.  Thriving lies alongside resilience.  Examples of reported growth include renewed appreciation for life, changes to personal priorities, deepened relationships and increased honesty.

I’ve had several personal epiphanies.  Some I can directly link to a time and place.  Others arrived more gradually.  Stepping out of the shower one morning when I was twelve years old, I realized that “everybody dies and so would I.”  In high school, I realized that I had to push past my natural inclinations and become more social if I wanted to enjoy school.  I joined the Honor Society and the Pep Club.  I spoke up in class.  This became easier when I realized that everyone wasn’t watching for me to make mistakes.  I was insignificant in the bigger picture and people weren’t generally focused specifically on me.  Corollary:  Even if I messed up, most people wouldn’t notice or were people I was unlikely to meet again.

Finally, change is the only constant.  My family, especially my dad, treated change as threatening with little chance of being beneficial.  When I stopped dreading change and started looking on it as opportunity, my need for control decreased.  I coped more naturally with the unexpected.  I was (and am) less stressed.  PTG as characterized by decreased reactivity and faster recovery works for me.  As I’m exposed to similar stressors, I cope with them matter-of-factly. I’m less likely to panic.  I try not to sweat the small stuff and remember that everything is not equally important.  It helps … when it works.

What do you think?

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