Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS)!-Part 1 by Serena Satcher, MD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS)!-Part 1 by Serena Satcher, MD

Welcome to my post on PTSD and PTSS. I had an awakening to the nuances of PTSD and Trauma related disorders while working with Veterans at the WRIISC over the past several years. Often Spouses are exposed to symptoms for years and can acquire symptoms themselves that may necessitate therapy or treatment.

I know from my pursuit of understanding PTSS and PTSD, that PTSS, and PTSD are similar but not the same. The suffering of black people in this country has not been acknowledge by the medical community formally but many of us recognize the Ancestral trauma of the many indigenous peoples around the world.

Veterans of the Gulf War and their families are often dealing with symptoms of PTSD. There is hope for everyone if recognized and referred.


  1. Overview/Basics of Condition

What is PTSD?

What is PTSD? It is PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It is a condition that can occur soon or much later after a traumatic incident like sexual trauma, combat trauma, after an accident or injury, after a hospitalization or any number of traumatizing events or an event in which the person feels their life is in danger.

Are there different types of PTSD?

There are 5 different types of Stress response considered part of the PTSD group of diseases.

Normal Stress Response

Normal stress response is what occurs initially, before PTSD. In most people it can resolve and not turn into a disorder.  Any stressors you can imagine can lead to this.  Typically, normal stress response can be managed with the support of loved ones, peers and individual or group therapy sessions. It can also be treated by alternative methods such as Neuroemotional technique, Energy Medicine, EMDR, Emotional Freedom Tapping.  It typically resolves in a few weeks.

Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder, can happen in people who have been exposed to what is or what feels like a life-threatening event. Combat exposure, rape, natural disasters, as examples.  If left untreated, it may actually develop into PTSD.   Acute stress disorder can be treated through conventional individual ,group therapy, medication and intensive treatments as well as alternatives such as Neuroemotional technique, Energy Medicine, EMDR, Emotional Freedom Tapping.  Nutrition and sleep also play key roles in managing stress.

Uncomplicated PTSD

Uncomplicated PTSD is linked to one major traumatic event, versus multiple events.   Symptoms of PTSD include avoidance of trauma triggers/reminders, nightmares, flashbacks, irritability, mood lability, changes in relationships. Uncomplicated PTSD can be treated through therapy, medication or a combination of both.   I will also mention here that DSM does not list or consider PTSS-post traumatic slave syndrome or racialized stress, which should be considered when making diagnoses of PTSD.  It is usually a lifetime of events that are cumulative and present with traumatic stress behaviors.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is the result of multiple traumatic events. Complex PTSD is common in abuse or domestic violence cases, repeated exposure to war or community violence, or sudden loss. While they share the same symptoms, treatment of complex PTSD is a little more intense than uncomplicated PTSD. Individuals with complex PTSD can be many times incorrectly diagnosed with borderline or antisocial personality disorder or dissociative disorders. They exhibit behavioral issues, such as impulsivity, aggression, substance abuse or sexual impulsivity. They can also exhibit extreme emotional issues, such as intense rage, depression, anxiety or panic.

Comorbid PTSD

Comorbid PTSD is a diagnosis that occurs with another diagnosis. It is applied when a person has more than one mental health concern, often coupled with substance abuse issues. Comorbid PTSD is extremely common, as many people suffer from more than one condition at a time. Best results are achieved when all disorders are treated at the same time. Many people who suffer from PTSD avoid medical intervention and try to treat it on their own for many years. Self-medication is common as well as other destructive behaviors. Using drugs or alcohol to self medicate pain always results in more complications and a prolonged course.  It is important to recognize that the lack of acknowledgement of racialized stress in PTSS, has pushed many into this path of avoiding any therapeutic treatments.  All can be accelerated typically in recovery when combining or adding Energy Medicine, NET, and other alternative energy therapies.

How common is PTSD? 

3.5 % of Americans have PTSD.  The numbers are doubled in females.  1 in 11 will have it in their lifetime.

What parts of the body can be affected by PTSD despite it being a mental disorder?

I have worked with a number of Veterans of the Gulf War and Vietnam and have seen that PTSD can affect or worsen just about any biological system within the body.

PTSD can cause pain to be poorly controlled and to be impossible to control in muscles (PTSD muscle spasms) and joints-fibromyalgia.  PTSD can affect sleep and contribute to sleep terrors, nightmares, sleep disorders like sleep apnea.  Most people suffering from PTSD have had digestive issues and sleep issues for years and have self medicated and worsened chronic pain.  The digestive issues can range from reflux and ulcers, to Irritable bowel syndrome, and Inflammatory bowel disease.  Notably, the nervous system causes a range of symptoms such as cognitive impairment, attention issues, learning difficulties, headaches, autonomic dysfunction which may cause shivering (PTSD Shivering) and more


What are the physical signs of PTSD, if any?

The commonly recognized symptoms of PTSD are typically symptoms of autonomic dysfunction.  Those symptoms are determined by being in chronic sympathetic overdrive or flight or fight.  Some people may look like they are in withdrawal from opiates so many ask-Does PTSD make you shake?

Some of the symptoms are increased blood pressure and heart rate, fatigue, muscle tension, nausea, joint pain, headaches, back pain or other types of pain that are poorly controlled.  The person who is suffering often lacks the insight to see the connection of the PTSD and physical ailments.  The PTSD actually changes the neurochemicals that communicate between the cells.

There is also often avoidance of conventional medical treatment and self medicating.

Does PTSD make you shake?  Yes it can because it affects the autonomic nervous system as I mentioned.  This can cause a person to have hot flashes, cold and chills, nervousness and anxiety in addition to other symptoms.  

At what point should a doctor be consulted about PTSD?

When a diagnosis of PTSD is made a doctor should be part of the team.  Often in PTSD treatment, medications and other treatments that require a prescription or prescribed therapy are employed.  A multidisciplinary team is ideal.  I have taken care of Veterans on this type of team where there is a collaboration and sharing of information between team members which may include a medical doctor, a nurse, a psychologist or neuropsychologist, a social worker, physical/occupational/recreational therapy and administrative assistants (who communicate with the patient between visits and by phone).  

Are there any varieties of PTSD that would require immediate medical attention?

At times individuals suffering from PTSD may become very anxious, have anxiety or panic attacks, or physical/somatic symptoms stemming from sympathetic nervous system overdrive, syncope/fainting, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dysautonomia, chest pain, shortness of breath, rashes, dry eyes, and almost any symptom that stems from autonomic dysfunction as well as suicidality. Any of this list may require medical attention to sort out and these patients may end up in the ER or doctors office emergently or urgently until someone puts the whole picture together.

Is there anything that might look like PTSD but is something else?

As I previously mentioned any number of symptoms may result from Dysautonomia.  PTSD vs withdrawal or PTSD vs shock are often considerations by ER staff when these patients enter the ER with symptoms and vital signs that are very concerning.

Check out PTSD II for more on treatments, PTSS and references.

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