PTSD and Negative Reinforcement
Oct. 12, 2019
PTSD is often the result of surviving trauma. I think it's an application of operant conditioning. A person finds themself in a stressful situation. They feel extreme terror, but they survive the stress. The next time they experience stress, even just a little bit, they go back to feeling the terror, because feeling terror is linked with stress. Since they survived the original stress, the present terror is felt because it seems to be what made the stress go away. It's not a rational process, but an unconscious one. This negative reinforcement process is strengthened as the subject avoids death in subsequent stressful situations. The terror seems to be what prevents death, although eventually it may cause death as the person seeks to escape the terror. It's like people who say they were addicted the first time they tried crack cocaine. You experience terror at the maximum level. It's a negative emotion, but feeling is better than not feeling, even if feeling is bad.