Here’s Why PTSD Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

“It gets worse before it gets better”- this is a statement often quoted by people who’ve undergone or overcome a psychological disorder. Well, it holds true for PTSD too. PTSD is a disorder that hits you like a wrecking ball – it is a wholesome that affects your mind and body, usually for a long period of time. 


Many a time the patient themselves take a long time to acknowledge the disorder or to even notice the symptoms before going for therapy. The person is in a state of shock and a kind of mental numbness. Trauma therapy can be mentally exhausting and can inflict more pain. The road to cope up with PTSD can be unpredictable. However, it is not impossible to navigate through it. In therapy, a patient usually goes through 4 stages. Going through these stages is like going deeper into an ocean where you don’t know what comes next. It can be scary and you may also be triggered at times, and things may get worse but eventually, you will get to the other end, much stronger. 


The first stage being of ‘impact’ that encompasses reactions such as shock, guilt, fear, etc. These are the first impressions after the traumatic event has taken place. A person may find it difficult to muster the whole event and is in a state of shock. This may last for a few hours or even days, depending upon the person and the severity of the trauma. An individual may experience helplessness, anxiety, shock, fear, or hypervigilance


The next stage is usually the denial phase where the person consciously or unconsciously denies the flashes, or memories of the terrifying event. However, if you’re consciously trying to avoid the event, you should know that it is only going to harm you furthermore. Suppressing emotions and bottling up your feelings will eventually lead to an outburst. It is not necessary that everyone with PTSD may experience this phase. Some individuals come to terms with the trauma and acknowledge what happened. In either of the above cases, it is important that you start finding a solution to the main issue. 


You can start by finding a short term recovery solution. This is known as the intermediate recovery phase, where one tries to get back to normalcy.  The individual may face several adversities but still, efforts are made to find immediate solutions to primary problems. There are two ways a person can respond to this stage. 

  1. Altruism- the person may be amazed by the love and support of the people around and accepts it gratefully. The care received from others pushes you to take a step forward in healing. 
  2. Disillusionment- here a person acts totally opposite to the previous one where the person may feel disappointed by the lack of support or feel intruded by it. Although, they still acknowledge the traumatic and take steps to overcome it, all by themselves.  


It’s very common to experience nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts at this point. However one should learn to tame these symptoms. There is no timeline for healing; it entirely depends on the individual receiving treatment to be comfortable and accepting of what has happened and finally moving forward from there. However, one should always seek proper neurocritical care. Your mental health is of prime importance.  With self-care techniques, meditation, mindfulness, grounding, and breathing techniques you can control these symptoms and lessen their impact. 

This is the right step to initiate a process of dealing with daily life situations and not slipping back, since after you’ve acknowledged the trauma and try to heal, it gets worse. Nightmares, negative thoughts, emotions, and flashbacks.  If you feel like your therapist is moving too fast in the process, it is completely fine to ask them to go slow and let you deal with trauma in an enhanced and efficient manner. Image rehearsal therapy and several others can help you get a long term solution for recovery. One of the reasons why trauma therapy gets worse with time is because you’ve to deal with the inner demons by confronting them. 


The long term recovery stage is where one finds a permanent solution to trauma. While the person still might be dealing with the post-trauma effects, this is the stage that focuses on rebuilding oneself while dealing with personal problems. This is the stage where things get absolutely worse, your symptoms may get even stronger and wild. They can hit you at your worst. There is a possibility where you may be super upset with the phase you’re in and feel like giving up. At times you may even depend on stimulants like alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. 


However, running away from these symptoms will leave you in a more deplorable and miserable condition. One should try to come to grips with the reality, give that one final push, and deal with the problem.  It is necessary to go through some tough questions and realizations to feel free and have hope for healing. 


After a storm comes the calm. PTSD may break you at first, but overcoming it will only make you stronger. Never lose hope in you and don’t let the inner demons control or hurt you. Remind yourself that these scary nights are going to pass and there shall be a beautiful dawn soon.