Dear Dr. Frasier,
What is your (biblical) perspective on PTSD or personality disorders? I’m an Anon on Twitter and have noticed that some of the more caustic tweets are from those who have PTSD or claim to have it. I would like to know if there is a healing process for trauma survivors, like recovery steps?
Wanting to Know
Dear “Wanting to Know,”
Let me start by saying how much I appreciate your excellent question. There are many popular misunderstandings regarding both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and various personality disorders. Sometimes these two diagnostic categories may be related, but, often, they’re not.
PTSD is the brain’s maladaptive way of coping with severe trauma (either primary or secondary). It could result from horrific experiences in war, accidents, or exposure to sexual or physical abuse. The healing process is a slow and difficult road. One of the best new approaches available is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). I recommend you google it to see what it’s all about. Traditional talk therapy or spiritual interventions are generally non-effective in helping a victim/sufferer work through the psychological damage.
Personality disorders often result from unfortunate infancy and childhood experiences resulting in attachment/bonding difficulties with the child’s primary caregiver. This could be due to neglect, being orphaned, or abuse. The psychological disorder is a means of trying to compensate for something that is missing internally.
My experience as a therapist is that disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are very difficult to treat, because the client/patient has so many defense mechanisms in place that resist any type of challenge or confrontation. Denial, fear, shame, and the tendency to blame others are often at the root of the emotional difficulties.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you, in my counseling practice I no longer take clients who possess personality disorders because the work is far too frustrating and non-productive for me. They tend to not ever get better. I typically refer such clients to clinicians who enjoy working with psycho-pathologies.
I recognize that my response to overcoming personality disorders is not very promising or optimistic, but this is simply the way I see it. PTSD, however, by itself is quite treatable these days, thank God!
In trying to help individuals, it is important not to get sucked into a vortex of confusion and pathology that negatively affects your own mental health. Establishing firm boundaries is critical, as is knowing when you’re in over your head.
Hope this helps!
Dr. Ryan Noel Fraser