Trauma and PTSD
Has a past event or experience left you feeling fearful and anxious? Is it hard for you to feel safe or trust others?
Are you struggling with intense, unpredictable feelings or mood swings? Do you feel numb or disconnected from those around you? Do you experience recurrent nightmares or disturbing memories? Perhaps, you have difficulty concentrating or a persistent sense of danger that occupies your mind. Or, you may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and confusion.
It is possible you may be experiencing the symptoms of trauma or traumatic stress. Sometimes, when bad things happen to us, it can be difficult to recover from the pain, shock or powerlessness of the experience. In fact, the more fearful, overwhelmed or vulnerable you may have felt during the experience, the more likely you are to experience emotional and physical symptoms in the weeks, months or even years following. However, there are ways to help you heal and recover from these painful symptoms.
How do I know if I have had a trauma?
A trauma is any event or experience that impacts your ability to feel safe and connected—both to yourself and the world around you. Often, people think of traumas as life threatening events, such as being physical assaulted or in a serious car accident. However, anything that causes you to feel frightened overwhelmed and powerless can be a trauma.
Abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), neglect, loss, discrimination, financial distress, natural disasters, and even daily stress can create trauma responses in the body. Traumatic responses can be triggered by a single event or by ongoing, persistent stresses, such as struggling with a debilitating disease, ongoing domestic violence or abuse, or living apart from a parent for a child.
What causes traumatic symptoms?
The body’s nervous system has a natural way of responding to traumatic and fearful experiences. When it senses danger, it activates your fight or flight response to help you cope with and move through the experience. Sometimes, however, this natural response gets blocked or prevented in some way. For example, if your flight or flight response gets activated too often or for too long (persistent trauma), or if a threat feels too overwhelming (a sudden trauma), your nervous system can become unbalanced. That is, it can get stuck, and as a result, painful emotional and physical symptoms can emerge.
How can I begin to heal?
As part of the healing process, it is important that you be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to mourn the losses you’ve experienced and feel your feelings, without guilt or judgment. Therapy can help you through this process. With the right support, you can grieve, process your experience, and ultimately regain your sense of safety and balance.
As part of my approach, I incorporate both Attachment-Focused EMDR and the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM), two modalities that utilize your body’s innate ability to heal and release trauma that may be “stuck” in the body, mind and nervous system. EMDR activates the brain’s innate information processing system to help clear out what may be “stuck” and unresolved inside of you. TRM focuses on sensations and restoring balance to your nervous system from a somatic perspective, rather than just concentrating on thoughts and memories. Used together or alone, these trauma treatment approaches help get your flight or flight system unstuck, so that you can live a balanced, peaceful and fulfilling life.
I’m not sure . . . I have more questions.
I’m worried that therapy will make me relive the agonizing details of my trauma.
It is not necessary for you to discuss all of the painful details of your trauma in order for healing to take place. Sometimes, for some individuals, recalling some memories or feelings can provide helpful understanding and relieve. However, it certainly is not a requirement of trauma therapy. Healing can happen through the regulation of the nervous system.
I don’t have memories of a specific trauma. Can therapy still help me?
In order for healing to happen, you do not need to know the exact cause of your traumatic symptoms. Commonly, our minds block painful memories to protect us, and it is not necessary to connect with those blocked memories for healing. Therapy focuses on reducing symptoms, rebalancing the nervous system, and restoring a sense of safety, trust and connection.
I don’t know if therapy can help me. What if there is just something wrong with me?
When you’ve had a trauma or are struggling with traumatic stress, it is normal to feel hopeless, as if things can’t or won’t get better. Feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness are symptoms of traumatic stress. However, in truth, therapy is extremely effective in trauma recovery, and can help you begin to live your life again.