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The hidden “Upside” to PTSD

Posted on 09-23-15 in Mental Health, PTSD

hidden-upside-ptsd

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most widely recognized mental disorders.

More than 90 percent of people experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Over three quarters of men and women diagnosed with lifetime PTSD develop another co-morbid condition. “Bouncing back” from such a trauma often sounds incredulous in the field of PTSD, but what Jim Rendon, the author of Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic growth, discovered about this journey was a new side to the story.

The prevailing notion that has surrounded PTSD ever since its existence is that an unfortunate event will leave someone feeling damaged, broken and traumatized for life. Recently, however, a small but gradually growing concept has deemed PTSD to be transformative.

According to Rendon, “The trauma becomes a dividing line in the survivors’ lives. They are different after the event. Sometimes that change is negative- the post traumatic stress symptoms that have received so much attention. But the changes don’t end there. Trauma survivors are often pushed by a brush with their own mortality, by the depth of their hardship or even the suffering of others, to find more meaningful and fulfilling ways of understanding who they are and how they want to live. They struggle, but they also change for the better.”

It was in the 1980s when the beneficial effects of trauma were further investigated. Shockingly, more than half of the survivors reported positive changes in their lives as a result of a traumatic event they had experienced, altering their life or career paths.

With this book, Rendon attempts to provide those battling PTSD useful resources and inspiration to turn their lives around and enable them to turn their symptoms into a driving force for a positive change.

The book is divided into three parts.

  • The first part discusses in depth, with help of prior research and real-life stories, how trauma can actually be transformative and provide an unexpected positive change in life.
  • The second part focuses on the necessary tools for growth that include a change in one’s own outlook of his or her trauma and how community, support, self-expression and opening up to new experiences are vital.
  • The last part shines light on the cultivation of growth through effective management of distress, becoming pro-active and bonding with those affected similarly.

“Upside provides authentic hope, grounded in science and enlivened by real-life stories, that it is possible to emerge from a traumatic experience not diminished, but somehow enlarged by it. This book offers scientific evidence, personal understanding and practical tools to transform trauma into an occasion for growth,” said Henry Emmons, M.D., author of The Chemistry of Joy.

Another positive review by Linda Graham, MFT, author of Bouncing Back, said, “Upside presents the research data, too long ignored, behind the stories of people’s remarkable healing and thriving from trauma. A true gift to the field of trauma recovery, post-traumatic growth is not only possible, it’s our birthright.”

About the author

Jim Rendon is a freelance journalist who focuses his writing on business, science, design, the environment and much more. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Marie Claire, Fortune and several other renowned publications.

A graduate of Ithaca College and the University of California, Berkley Graduate School of Journalism, Rendon is a former staff writer at Metro, Silicon Valley’s alternative weekly and SmartMoney magazine. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two kids.

Written by Sana Ahmed, Sovereign Health Group writer