Posttraumatic growth (PTG) is the kind of personal growth that happens as a result of going through a posttraumatic stress event and working through the distress that results from the event. PTG is a term describing the positive psychological transformation that takes place as one struggles to deal with the challenges that come with having experienced a highly distressing, even frightening event. In some cases when someone is too distressed it may impair them to such an extent that they simply cannot embrace the process of growth.

Posttraumatic growth has been observed and documented in a number of situations where someone has suffered a man-made or natural traumatic event, which include war, life-threatening illness, and the death of loved ones. PTG seems to be something that has been documented throughout the world but there does seem to be specific cultural variations.

When someone is attempting to adapt and adjust to traumatic circumstances in their life, so severe that it causes extreme psychological distress as happens in a major life crisis, there is an opportunity for posttraumatic growth to take place. PTG does not result directly from the traumatic event, but rather through the person’s struggle to adapt to their new reality, the situation they now find themselves in, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and financially as a result of the trauma. Various factors have been linked with the ability to adapt and grow following an extremely traumatic experience. Being spiritual and having sound social support in the aftermath are known to act as buffers in responding to the stress. When someone can somehow find meaning in the trauma they experienced, this can facilitate their growth.

People that have progressed through posttraumatic growth have experienced the following results: rearranged priorities in life, a renewed appreciation of life, the capability of having more intimate and warmer relationships, new recognition of the possibilities available to them in life, enhanced feeling of personal growth and more profound spiritual development. Having an extroverted personality and being open to new experiences seem to be two qualities that affect the chances that someone could make good use of the aftermath and survival of a traumatic event. Someone who is optimistic by nature is probably better able to focus their attention and what resources they can muster on the things that matter most, and remove themselves from unsolvable or uncontrollable problems.

When someone has the ability and time to grieve while gradually accepting the trauma in their lives may also help them grow. It is also very beneficial to have supportive people around them who can help them craft the narratives regarding all the changes occurring as a result of the traumatic event. In the process of creating these narratives new perspectives will appear and these can be integrated into the scheme of things. The narratives surrounding the trauma and what it is taking to survive are vital in the process of posttraumatic growth. In developing these narratives survivors are forced to confront the question of what has meaning in life and how these questions are answered will be vital.

People have different posttraumatic stress coping strategies and sometimes these lead people down a maladaptive spiral, while others move forward, adapting in a healthier manner to their new situation. Knowing this, people with successful coping mechanisms have a higher propensity for posttraumatic growth. Another factor would be the individual’s level of self-confidence. The more confident they naturally are the more likely they would have the ability to persist and grow from this experience, rather than give up out of a lack of confidence that they could prevail. Treatment for posttraumatic stress can be highly effective.  If you need help coping with trauma, please contact us today!

Contact MHR