Trauma is defined as a deeply emotional response to an event that happened in our past. This can be an event or experience that happened once, or happens repeatedly. Typically, at the time of the trauma, there is a loss of feeling of control. For a long time, in the world of psychology and within our culture, trauma was defined as something so out of the ordinary and severe that we limited the acknowledgement of these events to experiences of war, rape, severe abuse, natural disasters and devastating accidents. Now we understand that the symptoms of trauma are related to how an individual processes something that felt deeply overwhelming and impactful to them.
An emotional response can include quite a significant range of experiences that are based uniquely on the individual. Typically when the precipitating event occurs, there is often an immediate response that includes shock and denial. This response is designed by our nervous system to help us manage the intensity of the emotional pain occurring and helps us move into a place of survival. It is only later that the long term effects of the trauma set in.
Some of the responses that may indicate you are having a trauma response can include:
Physical symptoms including headaches, insomnia, stomach pain or nausea
Sudden emotional outbursts including explosive rage, devastating unpredictable fear, and uncontrollable grief. This can come in waves or be ongoing.
Flashbacks are a common response to trauma. Remembering and feeling as if you are still in that moment of trauma can occur until you find someone to help you move through this experience.
It is common for people who are experiencing trauma to seek initial help from their family doctor or medical practitioner because they often feel the experience so physically. Often it can feel as if there is something physically wrong with their body. This can be an appropriate place to begin to understand or get support for PTSD. Psychotherapy has developed many incredibly useful tools and strategies to help people recover from difficult and sometimes debilitating symptoms.
A few of the main forms of effective therapy are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which helps people recognize the way thinking patterns contribute to the symptoms.
Exposure Therapy, which is a form of behavioral therapy, which helps people safely face situations and memories that have been frightening and caused avoidance.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which combines exposure therapy with guided eye movements helping the subconscious process traumatic events.
We are finding that PTSD is more common than once thought. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, and sense there are some traumatic experiences in your life that have not yet been adequately processed, know there are some excellent forms of treatment, both medically and psychologically, to allow you to regain a stronger sense of grounding and peace.