An analogy for PTSD

Jun 19, 2022

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Imagine a building with a CEO, let’s call her Ms Cortex, (she represents the Pre frontal Cortex, the rational logical part of the brain- that is responsible for decision making and helps calm down the emotional centres.)

Then let’s introduce Erica (the Amygdala) who is the Chief H&O officer, her job is to be on the lookout for any danger or threats to take appropriate action when she finds them. The Amygdala is responsible for keeping us alive, and when it spots a threat it tells us how to act in a hundredth of a second, we are not in control of this at all. 

Then we have Ms Hippo (the hippocampus) the admin assistant who also works in the same building. Her job is to look after all the files; she has to put the files with all of the important information back into the right places, so that others can find it. She also needs to put a date stamp on the file.

Imagine there is a fire one day, Erica the Amygdala sets off the fire alarm and rushes about making sure everyone else is out of the building, including the CEO and Ms Hippo.

Ms Hippo drops her files on the floor before running out of the building.  When they leave the building she sets about putting out the fire out.

Ms Cortex and Ms Hippo return to the building, Ms Hippo goes to retrieve her files only to find that some are missing, stuffed into the incorrect drawers and she cannot sort them out.

She has no record of the work she was doing that day except a few bits of paper that are in the wrong order. Of course this means that in future, she will go into a drawer to retrieve an important piece of information only to find that she has another piece that completely takes her by surprise.

This is how PTSD works.

In addition to this Erica, is now on high alert, she is looking for danger now more than ever, she constantly gets in the way of Ms Hippo and Cortex trying to do their job because all she can think about is another fire happening.

She constantly does fire drills and has made up all kinds of new rules that prevent them from carrying out their jobs as efficiently as before. She is driving the others mad!

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It is not Erica’s fault of course; she is just trying to keep the building and everyone in it safe.

Everyone has different jobs to do and sometimes they conflict. 

That is how our brains work when we have been traumatised. Sometimes we feel like we are in danger when in fact we are safe. 

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