Understanding PTSD and Book Recommendations For Your Mental Health

PTSD Awareness Month
By Cheyenne Tyler Jacobs

According to research by the National Center for PTSD, 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year, and this number is a small portion of those who received an official diagnosis. The National Institute of Mental Health defines PTSD as a disorder that develops in some people after a shocking, dangerous, or traumatic event. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the chronic long-term effect of an incident and many times happens in conjunction with depression and anxiety. Below is a list of symptoms by the Stay Safe Foundation and more information on the causes of PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD:

  • Involuntary and intrusive distressing memories can include flashbacks of the trauma, bad dreams, and intrusive thoughts.
  • Avoidance can include staying away from specific places or objects that are reminders of the traumatic event. For example, a person might actively avoid a place or person that might activate overwhelming symptoms.
  • Cognitive and mood symptoms can include trouble recalling the event and negative thoughts about oneself.
  • Arousal symptoms , such as hypervigilance. Examples might include being intensely startled by stimuli that resemble the trauma, trouble sleeping, or outbursts of anger.

According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, “women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.” Specific populations also can experience more trauma leading to PTSD, such as individuals who serve in our military.

Seeking a mental health professional for a diagnosis and care plan is one of the best ways to navigate living with PTSD. However, navigating managing PTSD and healing by reading and researching while seeing a professional is a great approach. Below are five books that center on mental health and PTSD that are very informative and can help dive deeper into your mental health.

The Body is Not an Apology

By: Sonya Renee Taylor

The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems. World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world–for us all.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in Healing of Trauma

By: Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. In addition, he explores innovative treatments—from neuro-feedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. dan Der Kolk’s research and other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.

Set Boundaries Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself

By: Nedra Glover Tawwab

Healthy boundaries. We all know we should have them to achieve work/life balance, cope with toxic people, and enjoy rewarding relationships with partners, friends, and family. But what do “healthy boundaries” really mean–and how can we successfully express our needs, say “no,” and be assertive without offending others?

Licensed counselor, sought-after relationship expert, and one of the most influential therapists on Instagram, Nedra Glover Tawwab, demystifies this complex topic for today’s world. In a relatable and inclusive tone, Set Boundaries, Find Peace presents simple-yet-powerful ways to establish healthy boundaries in all aspects of life.

The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health: Navigate an Unequal System, Learn Tools for Emotional Wellness, and Get the Help you Deserve

By: Dr. Rheeda Walker, Forward by: Na’im Akbar

We can’t deny it any longer: there is a Black mental health crisis in our world today. Black people die at disproportionately high rates due to chronic illness, suffer from poverty, under-education, and the effects of racism. This book is an exploration of Black mental health in today’s world, the forces that have undermined mental health progress for African Americans, and what needs to happen for African Americans to heal psychological distress, find community, and undo years of stigma and marginalization to access adequate mental health care.

What Happened to You: A Conversation on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing

By: Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Here, Winfrey shares stories from her past, understanding through experience the vulnerability of facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it allows us to understand our pasts to clear a path to our future—opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.

These books, of course, are not a substitute for professional help, but they can aid in understanding your mental health on your own. If you or someone you know needs professional help for their mental health, please visit the HUED directory to find a professional in your area.

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