March 8th, 2011
11:54 AM ET

Could first-grade traumas cause PTSD?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question sked by Elissia Cave of Nebraska:

I was bullied when I was in the first grade really badly, and on the last day that year (the end of the year was when it was at the worst), my sisters and I were taken from school and put into foster care for over a year because our parents had been neglecting us. I've been researching it, and I think I'm exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Would what happened to me be traumatic enough to cause PTSD?

Expert answer:

Dear Elissia,

Your question reminds me of a line from one of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, who said, "Don't think that fate is more than the density of childhood." I know many people both personally and professionally who have spent their adult lives haunted by the pains of childhood. Increasingly, psychiatry is recognizing that these types of everyday - but horrible - experiences can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, depending on their severity and the vulnerabilities of the people involved.

Your case is especially painful to hear because I am sure that the horrors of the bullying you experienced were heightened immeasurably by the fact that your parents were unable to provide the type of support, both practical and emotional, that might have made all the difference. That you were placed in foster care unequivocally demonstrates that their lack of support was no figment of your childhood imagination.

We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that childhood is a time of especial vulnerability to stress and that stress encountered during this period has the ability to program a person's brain and body to be on "high alert" for the rest of their lives.

This high alert status might have been protective in the distant past, when a painful childhood honestly signaled that the rest of one's existence was likely to be a dangerous one. Nowadays, however, this high alert status doesn't seem to be of any benefit and, in fact, exacts a terrible cost in terms of all sorts of mental disturbances and physical illnesses.

I do a great deal of research with foster children, and I can tell you from this experience and from many other lines of evidence that the experience of going into foster care can be a horrendously stressful experience in and of itself. Even if parents are neglectful, children are programmed by nature to cling to them. In fact, the more neglectful the parents, the more clingy the kids and the more painful the separation, even if that separation is needed for the child's safety.

So I can tell from your brief question that you have a great deal of pain in your childhood. Whether the troubles you struggle with now are best considered as PTSD or as depression or another condition is a question for your mental health professional. The important point for now is that you should not be surprised that you are still struggling with the losses and hurts of your early years. Finally, the good news is that a number of effective treatments exist that won't fix the past but can markedly improve the future.

soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Ingrid F.

    During WW II airraids, I was a young child in Germany, and yes it did stick with me. I still had vivid flashbacks when I was over 50 already, that is one reason why I am so antiwar. Even fireworks are a trigger for me.
    Now think about all the people and kids that are exposed to the war
    violence in the world, the damage it does to their psyche.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Chrissy

    I vividly remember playing Hide-n-go-seek while just 5 years old and hiding under/in a huge king size blanket that had been laid out earlier in the yard for all us kids to use to play on so we wouldn't get bad grass stains. All of my friends and cousins were playing that day, and of course we didn't really pay attention to the blanket as intended that day. But when we started playing, to hide, I opted to hide under that blanket and rolled myself in it a little, as it appeared prior to my hiding there. I guess I forgot which way I initially rolled though, since when I tried to get out, I ended up rolling myself in it worse, with my arms tightly pinned to my sides. It may have only been 10 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity, that I was stuck in that blanket, that quickly heated up to intolerable temperatures in the summer sun. It stuck to itself, so no matter how I rolled, I wasn't unraveling myself. There was a good 2 feet of fabric above and below me as I was in the blanket like a tootsie roll. I was hollering for help, but since the "home" was in the front yard and I was in the back, yelling through heavy fabric, nobody heard me.
    I don't remember actually being found, or how I got out of that blanket, but the fear of my arms being pinned/confined like that, is now like a major phobia for me. I can handle tight/small places like crawling through a cave, or getting a hug, but getting my arms pinned/trapped for more than just a moment completely freaks me out. My legs being temporarily pinned is no problem, but my arms...whoah to the poor peson that attempts to do that!
    I have always attributed my overreactive response to that vivid trapped memory as a child. Hmm...PTSD? I suppose I now have a label for my unreasonable fear.

    March 8, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Meh

      Wow, sounds like you barely made it out alive...I have to wonder how you sleep under covers in the winter though. Does it give you the sweats and sometimes you wake up screaming because you're trapped under these things that are laying on top of you causing you to think you have PTST.

      March 8, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse |
    • WOBH

      Chrissy... you have a phobia most likely but probably not PTSD. Do you have flashbacks that come unexpectedly? Nightmares or sleep disturbances? Cold sweats or panic attacks even when you aren't confined?

      Those would be some of the symptoms required for a PTSD diagnosis

      March 8, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  3. David

    and your point is? Please explain in your expert MEDICAL opinion...thank you

    March 8, 2011 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Tim

    I was molested at a very young age. In itself that wasn't stressful but it made me wary and somewhat aloof from my classmates. They saw my aloofness as a judgement of them and I was bullied for seeming like I thought I was better than them. the bullying started in 3rd grade and continued through high school. My parents didn't know about the abuse and thought I was bringing the bullying on myself. Now in my 60s I have never had a long term relationship and suffer from depression and alcoholism. The term PTSD is relatively new but I knew the cause and effect was real anyway.

    March 8, 2011 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Beth

      I'm sorry you've been through such horrible experiences. It's hard enough being a kid without having to deal with abuse and tormenting. The people who dispute the existence of PTSD don't get it; I guess it's good that they escaped abuse. Those of us who lived through similar childhoods understand what you deal with and how it can impact every relationship, though. I hope you've found things that you enjoy doing, and that you have some close friends who are there for you when things are rough.

      March 8, 2011 at 23:15 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      I recommend reaching out in small ways. I understand stress; I can have screaming nightmares. But it is good to both seek therapy and also some interesting activities. If you live in a larger community, see if there are any groups that do hobbies together; sometimes it is easier to talk to others when you don't really have to talk, but you can just be making something. There is a knitting group in my city, for example (men and women), mostly beginners, which gathers at coffee shops. Years ago, my daughter was bullied because of a learning problem; she was told by a teacher to pretend that it didn't matter, and the bullying did stop. But she always made friends outside of school, and had other activities. I also think that music helps. You will need more concentrated help with addictions though. Don't pay attention to bullies who don't believe that you have problems; many adults never got over bullying eachother. Best wishes.

      March 9, 2011 at 00:53 | Report abuse |
  5. WOBH

    You have to present a specific constellation of symptoms to receive a diagnosis of PTSD. The Diagnostics and Statistics Manual IV (DSM IV) provides the criteria for diagnosis and these are produced by the APA. It's not just a matter of being afraid of something there are key symptoms that must be present.

    It's not always a matter of "sucking it up".

    March 8, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Vanilla Gorilla

    I had nuns for K-8 this was in the late 50's and early 60's. The nuns had a take no prisoners mentality when it came to things like getting your work in on time, being disruptive in class and other things that challenged their culture of discipline.
    Corporal punishment was the norm of the day when warranted. Statically there were some that did not perform and meet the expectations – but for the most part everyone went on to a college prep high school and 88% of those went on to college. No one claimed PTSD as a reason for not succeeding
    PTSD? For being bullied. You have got to be joking !! Just another fabricated excuse from the wonderful world of academia for those underachieving products of the public school system in America. We have a generation of students in this country who will be the reason this country becomes a Third World Nation. They do not have mental toughness – big deal you head some issues with being bullied – that was then and this is now. It is called growing up.
    I personally feel that the good Dr. Raison is part of the problem. I'll be you he was the last one picked for dodge ball and the first one to have his lunch eaten by the class bully.
    It is probably more of case of parental neglect and having to endure being in a foster home that has allowed what he thinks is PTSD to m manifest itself. Nothing like an ivory tower academic who wants to share his self diagnosis with the rest of the tribe. There are legitimate reasons for one to suffer PTSD and those folks need compassion and help – seems that his reason for claiming PTSD are on the bottom of the list. Maybe he should call Dr. Phil?

    March 8, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GPC

      Vanilla Gorilla,

      You assume that people weren't traumatized for life just because they went on to become successful? Many victims of bullying are academically and economically successful. But the psychological trauma remains. I'm sure many people who went to your school are still suffering ill effects. Just because you don't suffer doesn't mean others don't. Not all soldiers suffer from PSTD either. People differ in how they respond to stresses and difficulties.

      March 8, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
    • Emmaleah

      PTSD is a natural response. It's not any kind of ploy. In the past, people turned to alcohol, cigarettes, violence, gambling, and other distractions to cope. Now, people don't hide things as much.

      PTSD develops because our social structure lacks the simple systems needed to prevent it in most cases. We've 'evolved' beyond the simple rituals that used to help people cope in 'primitive' societies. We are stifled in our expression, as your response indicates. As we come to terms with the process and understand how to unwind the mind, and as we become less violent, PTSD will be a rare thing again. It is all intertwined and self-sustaining, both the causes and the effects.

      March 8, 2011 at 21:39 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Let's treat this like a school subject. People who hurt don't do well. If you don't "feel" this, then learn it intellectually. What would your nuns say if you claimed that you didn't believe something they were teaching you? If a doctor who has studied brain chemistry, all sorts of disorders, and has years of experience tells you something, what kind of student are you to deny him? I think the nun is getting out her paddle...

      March 9, 2011 at 01:00 | Report abuse |
    • CM


      Please don't breed. I would hate to see you inflict that disgusting atti-tude on another generation. You have no idea what you are talking about so please sit down and be quiet. The grown-ups are talking.

      March 9, 2011 at 07:09 | Report abuse |
    • Nicotoscan

      Vanilla Gorilla:

      I am a successful attorney, married, and have great kids. To this day, I don't feel comfortable in an all white room. I was the son of immigrants and came to the US when I was five. For the next twelve years, not a day went by when I was not insulted by a white American for the color of my skin, my parent's religious heritage and my culture. At some point, I tried to fight back which resulted in after school beatings and vandalism of our house and cars. My parents blamed it on me and provided no support. I have a lot of pent up rage and I don't know who to unleash it on. I probably never will. Still, it is very real and the paranoia and sometimes, hate, that dwells within me is not healthy and has resulted in a personal imbalance that is hard to express.

      March 9, 2011 at 08:18 | Report abuse |
  7. GPC


    Lucky you. You have obviously never been bullied. But I get a feeling you probably were a bully yourself. You probably are afraid to admit that you scarred some people for life. Bullying is extremely traumatic and not everyone gets over it. It's the bullies that need to suck it up and admit that they did terrible things that have caused lifelong pain for others. The everybody did it so it must be ok excuse doesn't apply.

    March 8, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Les

    Our adopted eight year old son was diagnosed 2 years ago at 6 years of age with PTSD due to neglect and abandonment that eventually lead to foster care. So I have seen first hand what can happen to a first grader when they have so much to deal with. He jumps at the littlest noises and is usally on high alert. Medicine helps.

    March 8, 2011 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CM


      Please also seek counseling for him with someone who is trained to work with PTSD in children. My therapist works with many children who suffer from PTSD, and he has helped me a great deal with mine at age 42. Therapy really can work wonders if you are with a therapist who knows what he's/she's doing.

      Best of luck.

      March 9, 2011 at 07:19 | Report abuse |
  9. WOBH

    I was bullied by my math teacher in grade 7. She would humiliate me, slap me, and shove me around if I wasn't doing long division to her satisfaction. I did not develop PTSD but I sure avoided math tasks in my life. I completed high school with really only a rudimentary understanding of math and I chose university courses that would not require math skills. I avoided jobs that might require handling money or making change.

    10 years later I decided I wanted to go into engineering. I studied at adult education classes and upgraded my skills with math. I eventually graduated second in my class and felt comfortable with complex physics and calculus. If I had developed PTSD it would have been much more dificult to overcome.

    I hope there's a special corner of Hell for that teacher.

    March 8, 2011 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jessica

    Dear Elissia: It sounds like you went through a lot as a child and that those experiences are causing you some emotional concerns today. While I can't tell you whether or not this is PTSD, it might be very beneficial for you to speak with a therapist. A therapist can provide you with some helpful tools and strategies to help deal with some of these strong emotions that are surfacing. Some employers provide access to free counseling services (such as the Employee Assistance Program), or you could speak to your doctor about a referral to a therapist. Try not to be hard on yourself – there is nothing wrong with seeking help to deal with this trauma, and the emotions that are bubbling to the surface. It's actually very healthy to seek counseling help, rather than let things bottle and negatively affect your health. Please try to ignore some of the comments in this discussion.

    March 8, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Zathrus

    My father was an angry, abusive alcoholic when I was growing up from 6th grade through high school. I can remember having to drive him home passed out drunk when I was only 14, as well as trying to pick him up off the floor, and being constantly embarrassed by his drunken rages and stupidity. Any little thing would set him off. If I didn't do something right according to him, he would blow up, go and get drunk and then blame me for causing him to drink. I am now 45 and I know for a fact that those memories and anxiety stay with you for a lifetime and do not go away.

    March 8, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lola

      You just described my mother. Yep, it stays with you.

      March 9, 2011 at 00:44 | Report abuse |
  12. M@!

    I stand by Ayn Rand... childhood is an intellectual wasteland.

    March 8, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sporky13.1

      Yep. I spent a lot of my childhood wanting to be an adult and just do what I wanted. She was so right-being a kid sucks.

      March 8, 2011 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
    • Emmaleah

      Ayn Rand had PTSD. So. There you go.

      March 8, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Not everybody agrees with Ayn Rand. I had a friend who couldn't function when he lost a job; he couldn't understand why things weren't as perfect as they should have been. He was an avid Rand fanatic. It took him much longer than it should have to start a realistic job search.

      March 9, 2011 at 01:08 | Report abuse |
    • Zero

      What does anyone know about Any Rand having PTSD? It seems so possible to me. Her experience of watching her father's and family's business be overtaken by Russian communists and the resulting life long demise seems to have fueled her very polarized philosophy about individualism and collectivism. Would love more facts.

      August 14, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
  13. lmew

    I don't know if anything happened to me or not, but I don't remember anything about first grade. I don't even remember the teacher. I remember the teachers i had in preschool, kindergarten, pre-1st, and everything after first grade.

    March 8, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • liz

      i've often wondered if i was the only one who doesn't have a clue what went one in first grade!!! the ONLY thing that I remember is a little boy w/ a bathroom problem. he had permission to get up and "go" whenever. i would follow him whenever he left the room! the teacher sat me down one day, explained the boy's problem, and told me that i couldn't go to the bathroom so much.
      this is my one and only memory of first grade.

      March 9, 2011 at 02:11 | Report abuse |
  14. Mar58

    I was a sensitive, artistic child. Unfortunately my father was a party animal, an alcoholic. Almost every night I was sitting up in my bed waiting for him to come home..then I'd listen to my parents's awful fights. I heard my mom cry. My heart was racing like crazy. I lived like this (physically healthy) until age 19, when I suffered the first of hundreds of terror attacks to come. I've been sick all my adult life and I'm fearful to this day. I was diagnosed with panic disorder, Generalized Anxiety disorder, clinical depression..and no therapy had any lasting effects. I felt suicidal many times. I have a constant fear of dying suddenly. I "sucked it up" ( insensitive people like to use this expression), I earned two college degrees, worked full time for enough years to earn the right to apply for SS disability. When I told my story to the government psychiatrist he was the one with tears in his eyes. I was awarded the benefits for the first try. I never ever feel normal, although eventually some medications did help to calm me down. I'll never recover – my childhood ruined my adulthood. I just live from day to day trying to act normal. If parents just realized what they are doing to their children – iit should be classified as criminal! Thanks

    March 8, 2011 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Beachobx

    Sean and Meh – you both are heartless fools. Kids have endured things which even you, now – as an adult- could NOT just 'suck up'. If you could, then you have no feelings at all.

    March 8, 2011 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • margoM333

      Sean and Meh are most likely victims of extreme stress and trauma themselves who have adopted a defensive posture to protect themselves from the overwhelming feelings of powerlessness and victimization they experienced themselves. This type of anti-compassion is usually a copiing mechanism, part of denial, which makes them feel strong and in control. I am sure if we were to peek at their childhoods we would be aghast at some of the things that have happened to them, things they either have blocked out or told themselves "were not that bad". People who rarely experience trauma are sometimes much more compassionate than those who have but have not allowed themselves to face it and heal from it.

      March 8, 2011 at 19:07 | Report abuse |
    • CM

      Well said, Margo. Keen insight, and probably spot on.

      March 9, 2011 at 07:23 | Report abuse |
  16. margoM333

    New research into brain chemistry PROVES that trauma indeed changes brain function permanently. There are several effects on the brain itself, which prevent fully healing from trauma, abuse and neglect. One consequence is that severe and ongoing stress raises cortisol levels in the brain, which actually kills off healthy brain cells. So stress gives you brain damage. Another effect is that the hormone and adrenaline levels in your brain become elevated and put your body in constant "high-alert." The effects of these chemicals, which are supposed to only last a few minutes in a life-or-death situation, kills short-term memory cells, reduces cognitive function and keeps you continually over-reacting to stress (PTSD), because the brain is awash in these types of stress chemicals. Another thing Science has found is that our feelings of security, happiness and well-being lie in the brain, not in the emotions. Our emotions are all chemically-based. If a child does not receive proper attention, affection and interaction before the age of 2, he or she may never ever have a strong sense of self, which is formed in the hippocampus. I am writing a book on this for all the people I know who have tried everything in the world, from "sucking it up" and over-achieving to tons of therapy, and still are not whole. The ongoing stress of being bullied is considered to be "Prolonged Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." It is in the DSM IV. So, have empathy for yourself if you suffer from these conditions, they are based in your brain chemistry - you cannot will yourself to get over it and be "normal" when your brain is functioning abnormally because of permanent changes in its chemistry. Hope this helps shed some new light on the discussion here.

    March 8, 2011 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nurse T

      Margo- I'll be interested in reading your book. I have empathy for those how have experienced unspeakable horrors & we really cannot judge what others have been through. It minimizes their pain and only inflicts more pain.

      March 9, 2011 at 01:15 | Report abuse |
    • CM

      Margo, excellent synopsis. I still struggle with the effects of severe childhood r@pe (non-familial), incest (sibling), violence (adult sibling), and emotional parental neglect. It was difficult to accept that not only had they hurt me as a child – they may have permanently damaged my brain function. My therapist is wonderful and he is up-to-date in this research so I am lucky in that regard. There is life with PTSD and trauma, but it's definitely a different kind of life.

      March 9, 2011 at 07:29 | Report abuse |
  17. rh

    I wonder if she was really bullied in school, or was hypersensitive because her parents were neglectful.

    Either way, she could be traumatized. There are babies that had poor care for only a few months who have had significant trouble recovering.

    It's kind of obvious she is hung up on the bullying/neglect consciously, so unconsciously it could be worse. My question is, what else has happened since then? Has she ever had a chance to heal, or did things just get worse? There must be a reason she is looking for an answer in something that happened when she was 6 or 7 years old, what is she hiding?

    March 8, 2011 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Renee

    To Meh. You obviously were the bully, not the bullied. You must be so secure in your manhood to be able to critique everyone else who have been through horrible experiences. If you claim to not have been the bully as a kid, then you must be making up for lost time now, since you seem to LOVE attacking anyone who has commented on being affected when they were a kid by a jerk like yourself.
    Congrats buddy, your a first class ass.

    March 8, 2011 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. JFT

    PTSD has been around as a diagnosis for a long time. During World War I it was called "shell shock". During World War II it was called "war neurosis" or "war trauma". Eventually it was realized that PTSD occurs after traumatic events other than military service in active combat, and the phrase "post traumatic stress disorder" was coined. It is not a new diagnosis. It is suspected that certain genes are activated as the result of trauma and stress, and once activated, they never turn off, producing a state of heightened tension and alertness in sufferers, who have powerful reactions to traumatic and stressful events for the rest of their lives, and can suffer from flashbacks as well.

    PTSD, like autism, is nothing anyone would ever want to have or live with.

    March 8, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. KW

    For the record, PTSD is not new or a fad or buzz word. It came about in the 60s during the Vietnam War to describe the mental anguish of war veterans and is similar to WWI veterans' battle fatigue or WWII veterans' shellshock, and is now commonly accepted as a diagnosis for victims of traumatic events. As indicated in the article, that diagnosis is for a mental health professional to decide, but bullying likewise is accepted now as a social problem of epidemic proportions. I was bullied too, but I don't consider it too have been too severe; others, unfortunately, aren't so lucky and suffer terrible mental anguish.

    March 8, 2011 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. L

    I think the concern many people have with PTSD being a "buzz" word, is the concern that by labeling this disorder, people learn to use it as a crutch. Trauma can be overcome with cognitive behavioral therapy. It's not a matter of "sucking it up" but it is a matter of living with what happened to you (in the absence of medication). Don't give up and surrender to this "illness". It's your life and you have to live it as best you can. I'm sorry if those of you suffering consider that harsh. It's all that can be done. Nobody can change the past.

    Trauma causing brain damage (as Margo states) is a very extreme statement, and quite scary to someone like myself who's recently dealt with severe trauma. Obviously every life experience helps create the person you are today. Is this permanent brain damage? I'd really like to see the studies that prove this.

    March 8, 2011 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • margoM333

      L, this is from the U.S. Dept of Health website on Child Welfare and Development... I have done extensive research with multiple sources but this is one you can check out for yourself: "Child abuse and neglect have been shown, in some cases, to cause important regions of the brain to fail to form or grow properly, resulting in impaired development (De Bellis & Thomas, 2003). These alterations in brain maturation have long-term consequences for cognitive, language, and academic abilities (Watts-English, Fortson, Gibler, Hooper, & De Bellis, 2006). NSCAW found more than three-quarters of foster children between 1 and 2 years of age to be at medium to high risk for problems with brain development, as opposed to less than half of children in a control sample (ACF/OPRE, 2004a).

      There is more, much more... Google terms like, "Effects of childhood trauma". Good luck in your healing process. I, too, was an abused and neglected child and have healed tremendously. But I still overreact to extreme stress and do not have a normal nervous system. This research helps me to accept and understand myself while still doing everything I can to be functional and happy.

      March 8, 2011 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      NIH is conducting resilience studies to try to learn why some people develop PTSD after abuse, and others do not. They're finding pretty extreme physical changes in the brain in people with PTSD – actual structural changes, not just differences in the neural connections. That's apparently why it's so hard to treat successfully, but it can be done. Lamictal used off-label (it's typically for bipolar) can help minimize dissociation (feeling like you're merely observing but not present, or regressing to a childlike state) and a short-term course of Substance P (NK-1) can stabilize a lot of symptoms. To everyone dealing with PTSD, know that you're not alone even though the situations that often lead to it were often endured in isolation.

      March 8, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Studies in the past, the Harlow study on Rhesus monkeys proved brain changes. Then Dr. Kramer wrote a popular book on the subject (same doctor who first wrote on Prosac); he was talking about certain segments of the brain changing. But the brain can change for the better too. The point of talking about the brain changes is to prove that this is a real condition, for those who think that just "sucking it up" might help; the patient doesn't need the proof that they are hurting. I wouldn't worry about the studies, but I would get help if you are hurting. Going through tough situations doesn't always cause damage; it's how you feel, and it isn't your fault. WWII vets were sent home, with an Honorable Discharge, if they were "shell shocked." These days, with more information about it, often these cases are ignored. My own situation isn't military, but because of being a crime victim, together with a lifetime of being bullied, but I feel sympathy for military PTSD: my father-in-law had been in the Philippines in WWII, and it came up again for him before he died. It is never too late to get help; getting help is the start of healing..

      March 9, 2011 at 01:23 | Report abuse |
    • CM


      You might want to check out Bessel VanderKolk's research. There are actually many studies linking trauma and permanent damage to the brain.

      March 9, 2011 at 07:07 | Report abuse |
  22. Teri

    And, ADHD the year before that.

    I agree with Meh – in some situations, it is real. In others, it is just an excuse and a ploy for sympathy.

    March 8, 2011 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Teri

    I was afraid of all water for years due to almost drowning at age 3 in the ocean after being pulled out in a rip current. I still won't swim in open water (lake, river, ocean, etc.) and won't swim in pools with a lot of people splashing around making waves. I won't go so far as to say I have PTSD as I'm able to function in life as long as I stay out of the water. Things do stay with you. But, I think all kids have something negative from childhood that stays with them for life. How much it affects them as an adult is merely based on personality, resiliency, and what other things happened to them along the way.

    March 8, 2011 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. EmptySkull

    I suggest an experiment to prove or disprove this theory by first beating the crap out of you

    March 8, 2011 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. jimmyusa

    We have all had experiences which could be potentially emotionally damaging, but it's all about what you make of it. Take the man who spent 41 hours stuck in an elevator alone. The only thing bad that happened to him was he missed 2 days of work. He wasn't going to be fired. But he made a big deal of it and lost his job, became a recluse, and bitter at the world. He could have just gone back to life as normal but he blew things out of proportion.

    March 8, 2011 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. TheLeftCoast

    Elissa, I would recommend that you read up on Attachment Theory, the bonding of the infant to the primary caretaker (typically the mother) in the first few years of life. It sounds like you likely had insecure attachment, which is a deeply rooted issue, which can be helped by a GOOD therapist. (Note: just like any other profession, there is a range of competency in the field of therapy. Be sure to go to a therapist who is highly recommended by their clients.) Good luck to you.

    March 8, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • margoM333

      The leftCoast, Attachment Parenting and Insecure Attachment is a big part of my book. It is a fascinating field, I'm glad you mentiioned it. Hug Me, it's estimated that one-third of all Americans suffer from insecure attachment... which is a LOT of people. So, how did we get to be a national like this? because our caregivers and parents don't know how to love and nurture properly to create healthy, well-balanced and loving children. From your post, it looks like you could have used a lot more love and affection in your life!

      March 8, 2011 at 22:24 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      There were a lot of depressed people in America a century ago, because immigrants didn't come here with any of their support system. Where are the grandparents, aunts, etc. in the homr or nearby? Do you know everybody in your village, or near neighborhood? Can you rely on them? Or does your city tell you not to let your kids outside near certain houses? There is a lot more to "attachment" than just within the "nuclear" family. We are all so wrapped up in an ideal of "individual freedom" in America that we do not have enough nurture or a sense of our village. And most women have to work all day, and the kids are somewhere else; they will never bond to anybody. Women have no money, no "safety net," and it affects children. But now Mom and Dad don't know how to parent, because they never experienced it. People set their kids down in front of the TV, and the kids want that, but later the kids' brains know that they haven't been interacting or creating anything at all. They'll watch big bird doing something, but they will never associate themselves with being able to or wanting to do it.

      March 9, 2011 at 01:34 | Report abuse |
  27. Hug Me

    So, when exactly did we turn into a nation of sniveling c***s? Anyone know?

    March 8, 2011 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Will S

      1973. End of the draft.

      March 9, 2011 at 00:08 | Report abuse |
  28. Brigit

    I was diagnosed with PTSD in my early 30's as the result of childhood trauma and several physical assaults when I was a teen. I have to actively guard against stress (which is virtually impossible in today's world) or my symptoms worsen. For those of you who weren't abused as children, you don't know how lucky you are. I have good days, but it's a struggle.

    March 8, 2011 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Whywine

      Via Facebook from India-Mike : curiosity can be a deouarngs thing, but any female that has read SOF since the 70 s is attracted to the fear in men its accepted and glorified..in women its rejected and vilified. YOUR service to your country speaks volumes, but the REAL story is in the details left out due to honor AND a pledge.

      December 21, 2012 at 05:54 | Report abuse |
  29. lance corporal


    March 8, 2011 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. ConsumerPig

    So this'll be the diagnosis du jour, huh? And let me guess...the patent on the pastel-colored pills used to treat it is owned by Pfizer.

    March 8, 2011 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. dee

    In 2nd grade, I was bullied by the nun-teacher in front of the class for something i didn't do- was blamed for something, i think, for not inviting the class to my baby brother's baptism the next day (my older brother was supposed to) it still haunts me.. it made me fear authority– the feeling of being humiliated in front of my peers and accused of something i didn't do and not being able to make a stand for myself.. i'm that little 7 yr old forced to apologize...

    March 8, 2011 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Beacgibx

    Margo – what a great wealth of info. For me, it was a long road of self-discovery to uncover the roots of my panic attacks, depression, constant anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares. Along the way, I discovered Ainsworth's attachment theory and began to find out that childhood abuse can generate abnormal brain physiology. This info was somewhat of a relief to me. My emotional problems had physiological validity. Thanks to research such as yours, medication and psycho-therapy have enabled me to manage the physiological repercussions of childhood abuse. Thank you

    March 9, 2011 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • margoM333

      Beabgibx, Thank you.. I know that this book is going to help so many of us who struggle daily with wondering, "Why am I not better?" after trying so many things for so long. I appreciate your post so much... and I wish you continued healing.

      March 9, 2011 at 04:55 | Report abuse |
  33. liz

    My second-grade teacher used to tell us that we were evil and going to hell when we died. She said that hot water would be poured on us. I attended a public school, BTW. I have no recollection of her saying any of this. I would wake up in the middle of the night, crying, "I'm so evil. I don't want to die." I began throwing up a lot and crying during the day. Unable to tell my mom what was wrong – I didn't know, Mom began talking to classmates who lived on my bloc. One of them told her what the teacher was saying and doing. The teacher chased some boys along the perimeters of the classroom, trying to hit them and get them to behave. Her "you're so evil" words were for THEM and not the entire class.
    To this day, I have an intense fear of death. I often wake up during the night with panic attacks. I wonder how many other kids/now adults are still affected by her evil words. I am in my mid-50's.
    My mom, along with other students' parents, were successful in getting my teacher removed from the classroom – the following year. What is my profession? I'm a second-grade teacher. I choose my words carefully when speaking to my students, as I know what power they hold.

    March 9, 2011 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • margoM333

      Liz, I am so sorry for your experience.. that is extremely traumatic. It sounds like your teacher was profoundly mentally ill, even delusional or psychotic. Chasing the boys because she thought they were evil could be a manifestation of some form of paranoid schizophrenia. It's certainly not sane or rational behavior. Perhaps looking at it in this light can help you understand and cope with it a little bit better. Bless you for being a loving and sane presence in the lives of all your students.

      March 9, 2011 at 06:48 | Report abuse |
  34. GoldFinger

    It's interesting that the Dr. Charles Raison wrote such a roundabout response. It could have been written in one or twon sentences, as in "Dear Elissia, There is not enough data to adequately make a supportable conclusion regarding your current state of mind. Please see your healthcare specialist for further guidance." I feel as though I just wasted my time reading through all the fluff.

    March 9, 2011 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Re-trauma

    Sean, it's real. It just means that you probably don't have it. That's a good thing, and we are happy for that. People that don't have it, rarely get it. But, please don't attempt to deal with a person that has it...you will most likely do more harm than good. Dealing with people that don't understand it often leads to re-trauma.

    March 9, 2011 at 03:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Dystopiax

    It's a good idea to rule out DID / MPD after extensive childhood trauma.

    PTSD is a far over-used, fashionable Dx. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is like ATCROOGIS – which for cars means After The Car Runs Out Of Gas It Stops. It's tautological. Symptoms are you turn the key but it doesn't start. Doing this too long runs down the battery. I treated psychological trauma cases before PTSD left the confines of Veterans Administration hospitals. I treated nightmares, which reduces flashbacks, THEN treated related phobias.

    March 9, 2011 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN

    Because depression is usually a componetn of PTSD, it might be problematic to suggest that the original poster is EITHER depressed OR experiencing PTSD.
    Great to see a sprited discussion of these topics.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Laura Ornelas

    I appreciated Dr. Raison's thoughts for the writer. I deeply felt for her traumatic experience as a first grader, not only because she had been bullied, but because she had been separated from her family during that same time. What was meaningful to note was how Elissia stored those painful memories. What we know about memory and trauma storage is that it is retained in much the same manner in which it occurred. So, in her case, the bullying was paramount, and she believed her separation into foster care came as a result. While bullying is not a reason to take a child into foster care, her "child mind" believed that it was, and still believes that today. If she was a client in our in mental health clinics at Kinship Center (www.kinshipcenter.org) we would help her to work from those root, fragmented memories to fill out and address the other painful ones that must have occurred during that time of her life. I am hopeful that with professional support, she will be able to access the difficult events of her childhood that must have occurred within her family as well, which should provide her some amazing relief of her current concerns. And, yes, Elissia, first graders can certainly be traumatized by such memories! Laura Ornelas, LCSW

    March 10, 2011 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Nemo

    I have been living with PTSD and major depression for over a year now and have made some progress with my nightmares and panic and confusion thanks to EMDR, and I have been through 5 jobs and three states just trying to keep my family afloat. Leading up to my third hospitalization last year, my wife had to take care of me while I was incapable for over eight months. I know that a lot of people have this struggle because of their military experiences, and my fallout was connected to moving to a place with my family where I had experienced abuse as an adolescent. Dr. Z has a very helpful website that helps us in faith through this hell and isolation. Keep truckin' everybody– it's worth every lost day to make it further and lots of people do care and understand!

    May 26, 2011 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Yee Beachy

    Posttraumatic stress disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder; the characteristic symptoms are not present before exposure to the violently traumatic event. Typically the individual with PTSD persistently avoids all thoughts, emotions and discussion of the stressor event and may experience amnesia for it. However, the event is commonly relived by the individual through intrusive, recurrent recollections, flashbacks and nightmares.*.."*

    My web portal <http://www.healthwellnessbook.com/index.php

    July 2, 2013 at 03:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Daniel Haszard

    Current drug pharmaceutical PTSD treatment found ineffective.

    Eli Lilly made $70 billion on the Zyprexa franchise.Lilly was fined $1.4 billion for Zyprexa fraud!
    The atypical antipsychotics (Zyprexa,Risperdal,Seroquel) are like a 'synthetic' Thorazine,only they cost ten times more than the old fashioned typical antipsychotics.
    These newer generation drugs still pack their list of side effects like diabetes for the user.All these drugs work as so called 'major tranquilizers'.This can be a contradiction with PTSD suffers as we are hyper vigilant and feel uncomfortable with a drug that puts you to sleep and makes you sluggish.
    That's why drugs like Zyprexa don't work for PTSD survivors like myself.
    - Daniel Haszard

    July 2, 2013 at 08:28 | Report abuse | Reply

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