NLD and Trauma

People with NLD likely go through PTSD somewhat differently than those without NLD.  According to the Mayo Clinic (, post-traumatic stress disorder has several common symptoms.  These are just my personal opinions; not medical ones.  For fast reading, I’ll put the Mayo PTSD symptoms in quotation marks in blue, and my thoughts as someone with NLD who has had PTSD in green:

“Flashbacks” (likely that NLD person will have an even more pronounced reaction to the flashbacks, because NLD causes us to take a longer time to get through visual information; we may also have trouble hiding our sensitive responses to the stimuli that cause the flashbacks)

“Upsetting dreams” (I obviously have NLD-inflected dreams; that is, dreams with lots of objects that disappear and dreams of being lost and turned around; perhaps PTSD + NLD can equal some doubly-disorienting dreams, particularly if they are lucid dreams–lots of loss-of-control themes, it seems)

“Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event” (In my own case, this varies.  Sometimes I avoid traumatic topics.  But I have great trouble keeping them out of my thoughts and keeping myself from forming connections between my present-day setting and PTSD issues.  Though I don’t talk about trauma in most settings, when I feel comfortable around close friends, I feel an obsessive need–an almost physical need–to digress about the PTSD.  In fact, I feel that if something doesn’t get said, it isn’t understood.  Even if I know the other person understands, I don’t fully believe it until it’s said.  I get in trouble with people from going on about traumatic topics and not having moved on yet.  Still, while I can usually keep myself from mentioning something that could get me in trouble, I think at length about the PTSD stories and retell them to myself.  I talk to myself about them to make sense of them.  Perhaps my left brain is trying to commune with my right brain, which must exhaust the corpus collasum.)

-“Feeling emotionally numb” (I believe this feeling happens to NLD people with PTSD, along with emotional confusion, along with the struggle to express, process, and identify emotions.  This doesn’t mean we don’t feel emotions or can’t deal with them.  We do feel and deal with our emotions, but it’s more complicated for us and we need support to feel valued in our struggle to disentangle ourselves from environmental confusion.)

“Hopelessness about the future” (People with NLD probably experience this in relation to PTSD, and also probably have trouble imagining the specifics of a future, precisely because it is a visual-spatial issue.)

“Difficulty maintaining close relationships” (Definitely–as if they aren’t hard enough when we aren’t struggling with PTSD.  Moreover, friends may get annoyed hearing us talk about our grief, or even knowing grief is in our thoughts so much.  Friends and relatives may have trouble understanding why it takes us so long to move on.  I wish I could do it faster, but it’s really hard because I don’t always see things accurately.)

“Overwhelming guilt or shame” (Totally.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been super-focused on doing the right thing and knowing the rules.  When bad things happen to me, I often blame myself.  Even if it’s not my fault (or mostly not my fault), if I get a consequence, I beat myself up.  I freak out, and I worry that my reactions may not be the right ones because I struggle to envision results sometimes.  Guilt seeps out like pus from an infected scab.  NLD causes me to pick at emotional scabs with words.  To me the words are my only control.  The words are the only hope I have of making sense of the trauma.  It doesn’t make sense to those around me, who say I’m just dwelling on the past.  But I was depressed for years before I was diagnosed; depression is a reflex to me, like drinking water, and PTSD causes depression.  I use positive sayings, with some good results, but it’s a work in progress.)

For me, having the help of an excellent therapist is essential.  I’d say all kids (and possibly parents) with NLD need regular support, either through an NLD support group, a therapist who is very familiar with NLD, and/or other parents of NLD kids.  Someone to talk to (a trusted person) in-person, in real-time, chronically is a must.


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2 Responses to “NLD and Trauma”

  1. C L Booth Says:

    I find that many of the ways I have developed my self-concept reflect a lot of the issues that adults suffer when they have had childhood trauma.

    In fact, I suspect that my social isolation saved me in a lot of ways, the only thing blocking me from self-destruction was access to something dangerous enough.

    And I do struggle every day with an eating disorder, I am lucky that I did not pick up a more destructive method of self-medication.

    I am still dealing with the emotional fall out, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to get rid of that dark ugly feeling – that there is just something wrong with me, something that stunted and distorted who I am and that has left me hollow; but it seemed that no one cared enough to believe me when I asked for help.

    I have yet to bring this up with my psychologist, he does learning disabilities, I don’t know if he does whatever it is that is wrong with me.

    I would very much like to include a piece in my book that is a window into the NLD’ers world… I know I’m not the only one who suffers from whatever this is, and I think that parents, teachers, and professionals should be given a view inside. It might help them take it more seriously, or at least give perspective.

    What do you think?

  2. hannahcamille Says:

    Emotional fall out is a huge problem. I also struggle with feeling that there’s something wrong with me.

    Have you been in therapy for eating disorder issues? I hope you are recovering.

    I also told my parents I thought I had something “wrong” with me for years, but they didn’t agree. It made me depressed for a long time, et cetera.

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