How to Make PTSD: The Recipe

I know, I know… That’s a cheesy title.

I didn’t want to just title this post, “What is PTSD?”, because that would imply that I’m going to rattle off a list of diagnostic criteria. And I’m not doing that in this post. Today, we’ll talk about the different layers of where PTSD comes from and how it develops.

– The first ingredient in PTSD is a survival reflex that is hard-wired into the brain of every animal. This reflex drives our response to perceived threat, both in terms of how our body reacts, as well as by producing specific emotional reactions. We’ll break down the discussion of this instinct into a number of posts, because it’s a bunch of information. Don’t skip over this stuff – it’s important, and it’ll help you understand what makes your PTSD “tick”. Some of these posts can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

– The second ingredient is one that you don’t get in your average, garden-variety, civilian PTSD. That ingredient is your military training. Although civilians get PTSD, and theirs can be just as severe as yours – the flavour of yours is different because of your training. Since PTSD is based on your response to threat, your training gives you a lot more to work with in that department as compared to the average civi.

– These first two ingredients on their own aren’t enough to cause PTSD. For that to happen, you need the third ingredient – and that’s trauma, or a threat to your safety or that of someone else. Trauma overwhelms your ability to respond. After a trauma has happened, it also changes what we see as a threat (for instance, fireworks or crowds may start to feel threatening after you’ve been exposed to combat).

The icing on the cake as it were – what keeps feeding the PTSD once you have it – includes things like a lack of good information; not having the proper tools for coping with your symptoms;  and blaming yourself for not being able to “just get over it”. This is what keeps you trapped and makes it hard to get a leg up on your PTSD.

Once you know what PTSD is made of, it gets easier to take it apart, and that’s really where we’re going with this: PTSD is an enemy that you weren’t trained to fight. Once you have a good sense of what it’s made of and how it works, you’re in a much better position to defend yourself and to fight back.


I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…

You can find me on Twitter and on Facebook.

~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.


*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.

**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel free to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is the copyrighted property of Larry M. Jaipaul; please do not copy images without permission.

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14 thoughts on “How to Make PTSD: The Recipe

  1. Having an understanding community is extremely helpful in recovery. Thanks for another blog entry.

  2. This is an interesting post, I like how you’re making it relate-able with the metaphor of a cooking recipe, I guess this would be a do not cook recipe. But the message gets there and its easy to digest.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Mat!

      Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, to be clear, I certainly don’t recommend anyone try to cook up some PTSD – but, if you happen to have some already, the goal here is to provide good solid information on what it is, what makes it tick, and how to cope.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Wonderful post. I would only add to trauma by including emotion into the trauma greatly increases a person’s susceptibility to PTSD. This includes the warriors on the battlefront or first responders. It does widen the military scope a bit, but would you not agree first responders adopt the Battlemind (to use Co. Grossman’s terminology) inoculation you allude to ?

    1. Hi Anita!

      Thanks so much for stopping by to lave a comment. Yes, you are absolutely right that there is much more to it, and for the sake of this introductory post, I have greatly oversimplified the “recipe”.

      There are ingredients that make trauma – well, for lack of a better word – traumatic. Emotion is one of them. I will likely have several more posts on reflex; then several posts on training; and then get to describing trauma itself. So, you’re given the readers a little bit of a sneak preview of something I will likely address a month or two down the road.

  4. I’m not certain where you are getting your information, however good topic. I must spend a while studying more or figuring out more. Thanks for fantastic information I used to be looking for this info for my mission.

    1. Hi Donald!
      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Thank you for making the comment a compliment 🙂
      To answer your question about where I’m getting my information – I’m actually a card-carrying geek and it’s my business to know this stuff.
      I have a PhD in Clinical Psychology; I’m a licensed clinical and rehabilitation psychologist. I have a private practice and most of my work is in trauma.
      If you’d like to know more about me, go to the top of this page, right under the banner picture. Click on the right-most tab, the one that says “about me”. Prepare to be bored… It’s my life story.

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  6. I’m none military, and not a vet, and I have severe ptsd, I hope this doesn’t exclude me from being on here or posting or anything of the sorts. I’m hurting just like everyone else, that’s actually how I found this site……. I haven’t slept without the help of medication in weeks……. And even the medication only gives me 2 to 3 hrs a night……… So I turned to google and found this site…… And I have to say even though it’s a bit more focused in military……..i love it…….. I can relate just in a different circumstance…. Ptsd has nearly ruined my life……. And its still eating away at it…… I am getting help, but was almost too late for that, and I still have e bad days, if not for my fiancée…. I wouldn’t be here.

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