Many individuals impacted by trauma often struggle with the short term and long-term effects in a manner that greatly decreases the overall quality of life. Individuals often struggle to understand the different aspects of the body's response to trauma. Sadly, many individuals often feel like the body's reaction are abnormal, or dysfunctional in some way, when in fact the body is extremely resilient, and it is simply reacting normal to abnormal situations that have taken place.
How can individual therapy help?
For many, efforts to avoid reminders appear to be the only way that a distance can be created between the present and past traumatic events. It is often said, "Why would I want to think about something I am trying to forget?. However, the neurological impact of of unprocessed trauma often continues to contribute to the the severity of symptoms and paints the current perception for an individual's view of self, others and the world. Understanding the neurological impact often normalizes the body's response while processing the actual event often leads to a decrease in symptom severity and reestablishes an individuals' ability gain control over the trauma, as opposed to the trauma controlling their daily lives.
Initial/Delayed Responses to Trauma:
Trauma, including one-time, multiple, or long-lasting repetitive events, affects everyone differently. Some individuals may clearly display criteria associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but many more individuals will exhibit resilient responses or brief subclinical symptoms or consequences that fall outside of diagnostic criteria. The impact of trauma can be subtle, insidious, or outright destructive. How an event affects an individual depends on many factors, including characteristics of the individual, the type and characteristics of the event(s), developmental processes, the meaning of the trauma, and sociocultural factors.
Initial reactions to trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, physical arousal, and blunted affect. Most responses are normal in that they affect most survivors and are socially acceptable, psychologically effective, and self-limited. Indicators of more severe responses include continuous distress without periods of relative calm or rest, severe dissociation symptoms, and intense intrusive recollections that continue despite a return to safety.
Delayed responses to trauma can include persistent fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety focused on flashbacks, depression, and avoidance of emotions, sensations, or activities that are associated with the trauma.
PTSD is a mental illness which is characterized by prolonged psychological and physiological symptoms including:
- Intrusive symptoms:
- Recurrent, involuntary and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Recurrent distressing dreams
- Disassociate Reactions (Flash-backs)
- Intense physiological/psychological distress to internal/external cues that resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
- Avoidance symptoms:
- Efforts to avoid distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings closely related to the event.
- Efforts to avoid external reminders (people, places, conversations, or activities) that arouse distressing thoughts and memories closely associated with the traumatic event.
- Negative alterations in cognitions and mood associated with a traumatic event:
- Inability to remember certain aspects of the traumatic event.
- Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., "I am bad" "No one can be trusted" "The world is completely dangerous".
- Persistent negative emotional state (e.g., fear, horror, anger, guilt and shame).
- Diminished interest or participation in significant activities.
- Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.
- Inability to experience (e.g., happiness, satisfaction, or loving feelings).
- Marked alterations in arousal and reactivity.
- Irritable behavior and angry outburst.
- Reckless or self destructive behaviors
- Exaggerated startle response
- Problems in concentration
- Sleep disturbances (e.g., difficulty falling, or staying asleep, or restless sleep).
PTSD involves a psychiatric evaluation and physical tests to determine whether a person’s symptoms are actually being caused by a different disorder. A person must have been experiencing symptoms for at least a month to be diagnosed with PTSD. Every case is unique and requires individual attention, but there are a number of effective complementary ways of treating PTSD including:
- Talk therapy
- Brained-Based therapy (EMDR. Brainspotting)
- Adopting a healthier lifestyle