Functional Trauma Stress Disorder: Civilians Under Siege

November 5, 2023 by Lazer Brody

Everyone is aware of PTSD – post-trauma stress disorder. This is the emotional and psychosomatic aftermath of war and severe life-threatening situations. Yet, few people – unless they live in the Ukraine, Israel or any other place with constant or prolonged wartime conditions, are aware of FTSD – functional trauma stress disorder.

The Severity of FTSD

Several aspects FTSD render it a greater challenge that PTSD. for example:

  1. While PTSD is post-trauma, FTSD is ongoing trauma.
  2. While PTSD is easy to recognize and identify, FTSD is not.
  3. Therapists are very familiar with PTSD, but less so with FTSD.
  4. While those with PTSD are usually willing to seek and accept help, those with FTSD might not even be aware that they need help.
  5. PTSD sufferers are rarely in denial. FTSD sufferers are liable to consider their suffering as a weakness and therefore use denial as a defense mechanism.

The FTSD Lab

The Current Simchat Torah War (aka “Iron Shields”) began with the Hamas massacre of 1400 innocent Israelis on October 7, 2023. That day was both Shabbat and Simchat Torah. The entire nation of Israel went from extreme joy to extreme fury and indignation. Hamas kidnapped another 241 people (at the time of this writing – the count goes up almost daily). Yet, the south of Israel continues to bear the brunt of the war. For years, southern Israeli cities, towns and villages have suffered intermittent rocket fire. Every child under the age of 16 has been born into the reality of bomb shelters. As a health coach, spiritual guide and former IDF combat soldier, many people have sought my help. The following is the result of my personal experience and observation.

The Symptoms of FTSD

People with acute FTSD suffer one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Disorientation – in the middle of a task, they forget what they were doing. They go from one room to another, and forget what they wanted to accomplish. Perhaps they open the refridgerator and forget what they wanted.
  2. Fuzzy thinking and lack of focus – they read a sentence 3 times and either lose their place or forget what they read.
  3. Difficulty in concentrating – they experience sluggishness and require much more time to accomplish routine tasks.
  4. Fear of the future – they fear that the next missile attack will hit them or their home. They also have a doomsday outlook where small problems mushroom in their minds to life-threatening dangers.
  5. Short-temperedness – they are easily aggravated and react sharply or with anger.
  6. Futility – this is especially pronounced among civilians and all those who are not able to actively share in the war effort.
  7. Sleep Disorders – wake up multiple times during the night.
  8. Digestive disorders – from extremes of loss of appetite to heavily emotional eating and dinking.
  9. Headaches, muscle tension and tightening, diaphram pain, difficulty in breathing and similar psychosomatic disorders that cause actual physical suffering.
  10. Sadness and depression.

Coping with FTSD

Conventional therapy doesn’t have effective answers to FTSD. The reason is that emotional strength comes from the soul. FTSD is the result of the current trauma being stronger than the soul in its current state. If the soul is stronger than the body, then it can cope with the current trauma and overcome it. But, the more the body overcomes the soul, the more it suffers from FTSD.

Coping with and overcoming FTSD necessitates strengthening the soul. We accomplish that by learning emuna. The body might worry about danger, but when the soul is strong in emuna, it elicits Hashem’s help in overcoming the danger. That is how King David can so calmly declare, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You [Hashem] are with me (Psalm 23:4).

In light of the above, prayer, recitation of Psalms and especially personal prayer are wonderful relievers of PTSD. Reading emuna books and most effective in neutralizing FTSD. I strongly recommend 3 Words of Emuna for immediate relief and 13 Principles of Emuna for longterm treatment.

Don’t Be in Denial

Be honest with yourself. Don’t be in denial. If you experience one or more of the abovementioned 10 symptoms, admit it to yourself. Living in the south of Israel, at one time or another, I’ve felt each one. Yet, I’ve coped and continue coping with the very same advice I give you, And remember: you don’t learn emuna from eating chocolate ice-cream. Challenging times are a wonderful opportunity to gain genuine spiritual and emotional growth. May Hashem help us to be successful and may we hear good news from one another, amen!

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