Post Traumatic Growth
I have written before about the apt comparison of a cancer experience with other life situations that may result in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I have long thought that most of us experience some level of PTSD as we recover from the stresses of diagnosis and treatment. Certainly, some women experience clinical depression and can be helped by medications. For many others, however, there is no drug that will help with the feelings--what helps are time and discussion. We need to talk about what has happened, to tell our stories over and over until we process them enough so they can be absorbed into the fabric of our lives.
I like this article from ASCO's Cancer Net about post traumatic growth. This seems a very nice way to put a positive spin on our challenges. Here is the introduction and then a link to read more:
Post-Traumatic Growth and Cancer
Post-Traumatic Growth and Cancer
We've all heard of post-traumatic stress, which is generally used to describe feelings of anxiety and fear following a frightening or life-threatening experience, such as receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment. However, such experiences can also cause a positive life change or a period of improvement. In fact, some studies suggest that reports of growth following a traumatic event are more common than reports of psychiatric disorders taking place from the experience.
A new term—"post-traumatic growth"—has emerged to describe this phenomenon. Although the term may be relatively new, the concept that suffering can be a source of positive change has deep roots in the history of many philosophies and traditions.
Researchers note that post-traumatic growth should not be confused with resilience. Resilience describes patients "bouncing back" or returning to their previous levels of functioning, whereas post-traumatic growth refers to a personal gain of some kind.
Types of post-traumatic growth
The lessons learned through the process of coping with the challenging situation can translate into personal growth that is typically expressed in a number of ways:
- Improved interpersonal relationships: Experiencing increased feelings of closeness or intimacy with family or friends
- New life experiences: Making a change in career, overcoming a fear, or accomplishing a life goal
- A greater appreciation for life: Having increased awareness about your position in the world or new sense of vulnerability to death that changes how you live each day
- A sense of personal strength: Finding increased psychological rigor, resilience, or sense of empowerment
- Spiritual development: Gaining an increased interest in practicing religion or integrating spirituality into daily life
It should also be noted that experiencing post-traumatic growth does not necessarily mean that the person has overcome the stressor. In fact, most people who report post-traumatic growth also report simultaneously experiencing struggles with their trauma. This phenomenon is described by experts as "suffering meaningfully."
Post-traumatic growth, like post-traumatic stress, is by no means universal. Research suggests there are some factors that make patients more likely to experience post-traumatic growth. These include an ability to confront trauma and focus on new experiences, a support network that encourages personal growth, and individual coping strategies that help the person adapt to new challenges.