Don't Compare Yourself to Others in PTSD Recovery
I have found that there are some really good reasons that we should not compare our posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) recovery to the recovery of others. It's easy to get caught up in the comparison of your recovery process to the processes of others. After all, you are going through the same types of struggles and are dealing with the same types of symptoms (PTSD Symptoms and Signs of PTSD). Not to mention we often find a lot of similarities that allow us to relate to one another, and that is beneficial -- it lessens the feeling that we are alone. However, while that type of peer support is helpful to us, comparing our progressions in PTSD recovery is not.
I think it's probably human nature to compare ourselves to others, I know that I do it in a lot of different areas. Of course I always set myself up to become disappointed because I choose to compare myself to those that I think are smarter, prettier, more successful, or who have it all together. It's no different when it comes to recovery. I tend to look at the people who seem to have this PTSD thing beaten, or at least under control, and compare my own recovery to theirs. It's not a battle I can win.
When I find myself starting to make comparisons (instead of only accepting support from, or offering support to, others in recovery) I try to remember the reasons that doing so isn't such a good idea. Below are some of the reasons not to compare yourself to others in PTSD recovery.
Why Shouldn't We Compare our PTSD Recovery to the Recovery of Others?
- What works for others might not work for you. There are reasons that there are different approaches to PTSD treatment. For some of us cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy may be helpful. Others may see improvement with the use of psychiatric medications. Still others may find different methods of treatment work best for them, or that they need a combination of treatments to feel better. The point is, what works for me might not work for you (and vice versa), and that's alright. The important thing is to work with your therapist or doctor to find what benefits you the most in your recovery.
- You don't know the whole story. While it may appear that others are doing well in their recovery, that they "have it all together," we really don't know what is going on with them internally. Often times, those of us who have suffered trauma become experts at putting on a happy face and carrying on. Focusing on what is going on inside of yourself is far more productive than focusing on what is happening on the outside of someone else.
- We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Even people who grow up in the same household learn different coping skills for dealing with challenges. So it's no surprise that was all develop different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to recovery. For example, my husband and I both have PTSD, and the trauma that each of us suffered is pretty similar. However, when my PTSD is triggered by something, I tend to fall apart in that moment, while when my husband is triggered he is calm and collected until after the fact. It's only later that he feels the PTSD symptoms that affect him.
- Comparison can lead us to hopelessness. When we compare ourselves to others who seem to have a successful program of recovery while we are still suffering, we may be apt to feel like we are never going to get to that same point. That opens the door for hopelessness and despair. Again, comparing what we feel with how another person seems to feel isn't good for us.
- Comparing ourselves to others can make us complacent. On the other hand, if we compare ourselves to others in recovery who don't seem to be doing well or making progress, we may become complacent in our own recovery. Complacency can cause backsliding, which can be just as detrimental as feeling hopeless (Give Your Mental Health a Fresh Start).
When we compare the differences we have with others in recovery from PTSD, we may be hindering our own recovery; but when we remember to take comfort in the similarities that we have, and offer and accept support, we are allowing our recovery to progress.
DeLoe, J. (2016, May 12). Don't Compare Yourself to Others in PTSD Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, May 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2016/05/reasons-to-not-compare-yourself-to-others-in-ptsd-recovery
Author: Jami DeLoe
This was so helpful to me. For some time I was not truely aware all my symptoms pointed to PTSD. When I finally saw my diagnosis on paper, I immediately thought 'how could my trauma compare to what some others have experienced?' I downplayed the the reality of my situation because I felt the trauma i had been through wasn't bad enough to have caused these symptoms. Of course I had several people I worked with percieve me as a 'drama queen' and nothing that was going on with me was really that serious. I recently had to leave that job because the environment was so unsupportive I could no longer function there. I have since been on this journey, trying to connect with others that have PTSD and I have made a point of asking them if they feel the type of trauma really matters when they begin to talk about their experiences or seek support through a forum like this one. Ive heard no every single time. This has freed me of a ton of needless worry that my trauma wasn't BAD enough to warrant being a fellow sufferer of PTSD. Sounds rediculous when I write about it, but this article also helps ease my mind that although the traumas are different for many, our shared symptoms and experiences truely give us compassion and understanding for each other......that is the most important thing.
Thank you so much for your comment, and I'm glad to hear that this post was helpful to you.
I think that most of us who have been diagnosed with PTSD have felt like you describe - that our trauma wasn't as bad as what others have suffered. I know that I did in the beginning. The truth is, that it isn't the severity of the trauma, it's our brains' reaction to it. Some people who have been through far worse don't develop PTSD, and some who have been through far less do. That's another reason that it isn't useful to compare.
It's good to hear that you are finding support from others who understand what you're going through though. Knowing that you are not alone is so important to your recovery.
Good luck to you on your recovery journey!