Yes, you read the title of this blog correctly: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a condition I made up which in no way takes away from the serious and enduring effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD) which many of dysregulated eaters suffer from. I’m not in any way making fun of PTSD or minimizing it, I assure you.
The bona fide PTSD may happen when an external event dysregulates and overwhelms our nervous systems. The fictitious condition, which many of my clients also have, comes from catastrophizing external events and spending too much time thinking about future possible disasters. It’s a way of viewing the world as a glass that’s always half-filled, and not with water, but with poison. It’s a mindset that says, “Something terrible will happen to me and I’m positive that I won’t be able to cope with it. It will ruin my life and any chance of happiness I ever will have. I will never recover from it or be the same after it happens. And, no one, including myself, can prevent this from happening.”
I’m not exaggerating. Many people think like this. At the first sign of difficulty in a relationship, they’re certain they’ll be abandoned or rejected and that this will do them in. If a hoped for job doesn’t come through, they anticipate no job ever coming their way and living on the streets for the rest of their lives. When the doctor calls “with concerns” to discuss their lab tests, they’re sure that they’re bound to receive a fatal diagnosis.
The reason that I call this mindset Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder is that people who have it view their life as if it’s always going to be overwhelmingly stressful and traumatic. Moreover, they stress themselves out by constantly worrying that it will be. If something merely bad happens to them, it feels traumatic even when it isn’t. If they are subject to genuine trauma, they often can’t cope when others can. The difference is that people who can cope see themselves as resourceful and resilient. They either expect that they’ll be able to manage whatever befalls them or they have a wait-and-see attitude because they haven’t already made up their minds that things will be awful.
Ask yourself if any of your stress eating is due to having Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If so, don’t judge yourself; just acknowledge the fact and understand that this is how your mind works. It’s a view or mindset, not a fact nor your destiny. You may have an anxiety disorder or, ironically, you actually may suffer from real PTSD and not recognize it. If you walk around assuming that the world is an unsafe place and that you’re always at severe risk of being hurt in it, it’s time to change your attitude and heal your Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.