The following article is on a subject in which most clinicians have no concrete training: recognizing abortion-induced PTSD. I wrote it in layman's terms for the general population with the intention of helping them be more sensitive to this prevalent but under-recognized issue, and letting them know this form of PTSD can be treated.
I hope you will find it helpful in your life and practice. You have my permission to make copies and to give or forward it to those the Lord lays on your heart.
What do the following six conditions have in common: Infertility, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, preterm delivery, breast cancer, mental health problems? Your answer will depend on your sources and experiences. According to the Guttmacher Institute (formerly the statistical arm of Planned Parenthood), not one of those specific six disorders is among the complications of abortion. On the other hand, professional literature, such as Medical Science Monitor, reports independent scientific research beginning as early as 1977, showing these six disorders as directly connected side effects of abortion.
In this article, I would like to focus on the particularly distressing and common after-effect of abortion known as Post-Abortion Trauma or Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome (PASS). PASS is a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After an abortion, 2 out of 3 women experience PTSD, and so do equal numbers of men.
The symptoms of PTSD result from organic changes in the brain caused by exposure to a life-threatening event. The brain is designed to keep the person alive, so it makes a minutely detailed recording of the life-threatening event, i.e., a traffic accident, war, or in this case, abortion. The brain sets up “an early warning system.” Anything perceived by the brain, either consciously or unconsciously, to be remotely life-threatening triggers an alarm. This results in the symptoms that endure for at least a month, and often for years/decades: anxiety from re-experiencing flashbacks or nightmares, fear or anger triggered by unconscious memories of details, isolating by avoiding certain people or places, survivor-guilt and emotional numbness. This often spirals into depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and self-medicating through addictions of all types.
If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the above paragraph, the good news is that there is help. PTSD/PASS is treatable. Fresno VA psychiatrist Hani R. Khouzam, MD, is emphatic that “post-traumatic stress can be transformed into post-traumatic growth.” For those with PASS, support groups and After-Abortion Care Healing Retreats are incredibly healing. Both are confidential, safe, compassionate small group experiences, and, as one lady put it, “Absolutely Amazing!” Call for details: 559-901-7938, 1-800-62 WOMAN, or check our website: theIRMAnetwork.org.
Sellers, D. (2014, Spring). Post-abortion stress syndrome: connecting the dots. Health Connections, 16.