PTSD/TBI Factor #7 – Societal Context

What the larger group thinks, does matter

This is a continuation of the discussion about PTSD from TBI – Exploring some possibilities.

The next factor in the development of PTSD, according to Belleruth Naparstek, is societal context — what the culture you belong to believes — and communicates to the survivor — about the source of your trauma. “The meaning and significance assigned to a  traumatic event by the larger culture makes a difference in its impact.” (Invisible Heroes, p. 52)

In an example she cites, Finnish veterans of WWII showed extremely low incidences of PTSD — the war was seen as important, the fighting spirit of the veterans was celebrated, and overall there was a relatively high sense of subjective well-being, despite disabling health issues. The sacrifices of the soldiers were celebrated by the society — in sharp contrast to American veterans of the Korean War and the Viet Nam War, whose PTSD rates were as high as 30%.

Now, when it comes to TBI, so little is actually known about it in the general populace, and there are so many misconceptions about what causes it, what it means, and where it can lead, that it’s pretty difficult sometimes to ascribe any meaning to it at all. On top of that, when you get into labeling TBI’s as “mild” or “moderate” or “slight” you not only skew the facts of the situation (every brain injury is a serious matter, not to be taken lightly) but you also diminish the significance of it.

And when the injury happens as part of a freak accident, like something falling on your head, or you falling down a flight of stairs… that makes it even worse.

So, all the upheaval you’re experiencing, all the ups and downs, the confusion, the cognitive processing issues, the light and noise sensitivities… well, it doesn’t mean all that much, really. And society doesn’t have much use for you, when you’re unable (they think unwilling) to “get your act together”. As Belleruth Naparstek puts it, “… the significance that the larger community attaches to the traumatic catalyst has the power to cushion or exacerbate PTSD symptoms.” And all too often, no significance is (or ever can be) attached to the injury, leaving TBI survivors open to post-traumatic stress, which gradually builds over time.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

One thought on “PTSD/TBI Factor #7 – Societal Context”

  1. Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a form of acquired brain injury, occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. A person with a mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms of mild TBI include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking. A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, an inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.


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