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Am I at a High Risk for PTSD?

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From the U.S.: When I was in middle school, my acquaintances would repeatedly slap me in the butt at the lunch table and that made me feel very uncomfortable. That happened regularly. They used to say “I love you” sarcastically. One of them said I would go to college at “Touch my penis state.” They used to make me try to push someone off the lunch table and then they blamed me for it to the authorities. One of them poked me in the back with a pencil in the middle of class. I remember a day when I was in gym 1 of the guys said “You got pretty eyes” sarcastically and another one poked me in the stomach. I was kicked in the back in the locker room stalls when I was changing. One day a guy slapped me in the butt and then said “get your butt away from me man!” and another guy was laughing when that happened. I got my lunchbox stolen the year after that. I still remember all the sequence of events that happened in middle school and I still feel all the negative emotions and all the emotional pain that I felt at that time. I still hold a grudge against the middle school. And the few times I went to the teachers about it, they thought I was lying and called me crazy. I am afraid that I might have post tramatic stress disorder right now because of that.

Am I at a High Risk for PTSD?

Answered by on -

A.

I’m so very sorry you were so mercilessly bullied. I’m furious that teachers didn’t take you seriously. You were right to ask for help. They were wrong and unprofessional in their response. It’s no wonder to me that you are concerned.

BUT — this is a big “but” — not all kids who go through traumatic experiences like yours become traumatized. In fact, studies show that two thirds of people who go through difficult times come through okay. This is usually because of a combination of resiliency factors: They know they are loved by people who care for them. They have people to talk to and who try to help. They are born with a more flexible temperament. They figure out ways to hold onto their positive self-esteem despite the bullying.

Not everyone is so lucky to have those resiliency factors going for them. These are the people who are traumatized by the trauma. They usually show a complex of the symptoms of PTSD that are outlined in detail in the DSM-5. Briefly, symptoms are in 4 categories:

  1. Intrusive memories or “flashbacks” or dreams about the events.
  2. Efforts to avoid the distressing thoughts, memories or feelings associated with the event.
  3. Negative alterations in cognitions or mood — like being unable to remember much about the event, feelings of detachment from others, persistent and exaggerated beliefs about self, others or the world.
  4. Marked alterations in arousal — like irritability, self-destructive behaviors, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle reflex

So the answer to your question is complicated. If you are one of the lucky ones who already had a lot of resiliency, you may have weathered the bullying, learned from the experience, and maybe even become stronger for it. If, however, you felt helpless to stop the bullying, there was no one to turn to, and you didn’t already have a fairly strong sense of self, you may have developed symptoms of PTSD.

If you think you did, please don’t diagnose yourself. Talk to a mental health professional to establish whether you have the disorder and whether you need some treatment. If so, the good news is that there is solid evidence-based treatment for PTSD. The bullying of middle school doesn’t have to shadow your life forever.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Am I at a High Risk for PTSD?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Am I at a High Risk for PTSD?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 14, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/12/25/am-i-at-a-high-risk-for-ptsd/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.