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Why PTSD makes you feel so out of control

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Someone with a healthy regulation system follows the yellow activation pattern:

A) starts with a calm baseline
B) gets activated without being out of control
C) does not remain at peak very long
D) starts calming relatively quickly
E) is back at baseline after establishing he or she is no longer in danger

Someone whose sympathetic response has been dysregulated by trauma will follow the red:

A) starts with a higher baseline due to being hyper vigilant—his brain is looking for anything that might even RESEMBLE danger
B) will spike extremely high and will leave her window of tolerance, resulting in either a panic attack or numbing/disassociation
C) will remain at peak a lot longer than necessary
D) when starting to calm, it will take his much longer to return to baseline
E) may not even be able to return to her initial starting baseline, continuing the cycle of dysregulation

Another response is numbing, which can occur at any stage of the response and would be represented by a plunge toward the bottom axis of the graph.

Why PTSD makes you feel so out of control

Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

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APA Reference
Staggs, S. (2019). Why PTSD makes you feel so out of control. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Mar 2019
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