Clients are often unsure if what they have experienced is classified as trauma.
We often imagine trauma as something catastrophic such as war, an assault, or a natural disaster.
However, a traumatic experience can be any adverse life experience that feels impossible to move past. A traumatic event can happen in the form of a physical trauma – like abuse or a car accident or it can also be an emotional loss such as the abrupt end to a relationship or the loss of a job (if you’re experience loss, grief counseling may something to consider). When thinking of trauma, we often overlook or trivialize emotionally traumatic events.
This can have an extremely detrimental impact to one’s mental health. Emotional trauma can run deeper and last longer than a physical trauma. An emotional trauma can be anything from parental neglect, loss of a loved one or manipulation and emotional abuse. Both physical and emotional trauma can make us feel like we are stuck in the past.
Trauma changes our brain and how we interact with the world.
Trauma can happen at any age and can vary in severity from person to person. Trauma takes over both our emotional and physical experience during and after the event.
When we experience a trauma, our body stores the information as well as our brains. Physical responses are called somatic effects. While our brains can separate if we just experience a trauma again, our bodies cannot tell the difference and react as if the trauma is happening all over again. Healing of both the emotional and physical reposes of trauma is essential and possible.
Common Emotional and Physical Symptoms of Trauma
Responses to trauma can impact our emotions in several ways. Some of the most common are emotions associated with trauma include sadness, low-self-esteem, self-blame, shame, anger, denial and fear. These feelings can often manifest into nightmares, feelings of reliving the trauma, insomnia, difficulty with relationships, poor focus, jumpiness, isolation and emotional outbursts.
(If you’re finding your intimate relationships difficult, consider couples therapy)
As we also carry our trauma and, in our bodies, some common physical symptoms include, muscle tension, nausea, dizziness, disrupted sleep, poor eating habits, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. Overtime, these can lead to life-long health implications.
Acute Stress Disorder vs. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Not every person that has survived a traumatic event develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some people develop some symptoms like those listed above, but they go away in a short period of time. This is called acute stress disorder (ASD). Short-term talk therapy and other trauma interventions can be helpful during this time.
If these symptoms last more than a month and have seriously affected your quality of life and ability to function, you could be suffering from PTSD. Some people feel the experience of PTSD right away, while others may not feel the effects for years.
Trying to Bury the Past (It Doesn’t work)
Often, we try to “lock up” our traumatic memories in mental boxes we hide and never want to look at. Trying to ignore these memories makes sense – it can feel like we are protecting ourselves. However, if left untreated, symptoms of PTSD can manifest even further leading to suicidal thoughts and feelings, dissociative disorders, substance abuse, process addictions like gambling, and eating disorders.
It is important to keep in mind that we try to cope with trauma the best we can with what is available to us. Sometimes we do this with adaptive skills like journaling, other times with maladaptive skills such as alcohol abuse or overeating. “Bad” (maladaptive) coping skills are all ways to find relief from our pain, but they do not mean we are bad people. We just need to learn more adaptive and healthier way to cope and heal from our painful memories. These ways of healing are available to you in therapy.
Trauma Doesn’t Have to Control You
Using counseling/therapy, we can learn to understand our trauma and identify areas for healing and growth. There are many evidence-based Trauma treatment interventions that can help us regain compassion for ourselves and neutralize the effect of traumatic memories both emotionally and psychically. One of the more useful interventions that is gaining much popularity is the evidence-based practice of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). Other practices include reversing negative/untrue beliefs about us learned through trauma. Often the combination of the two are most effective
Freedom from trauma is possible. Finding a therapist that specializes in trauma-informed therapy is the first key to recovery from our past. The information below is a helpful guide to finding the right therapeutic fit to begin your healing.
What is Trauma-Informed Therapy?
Trauma informed therapy is client-centered approach to psychotherapy that honors the client’s physical and emotional safety first and foremost. This type of therapeutic work encourages healing without triggering difficult memories, emotions, and experiences before the client is ready or that are detrimental to the healing process.
What is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
EMDR a therapeutic intervention that is considered the gold standard in treating clients who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as other trauma related disorders that are causing emotional distress. During EMDR sessions, you are given guidance for physical movements, such as bi-lateral eye movement; these actions help to process pain, trauma, and adverse life experiences allowing the client to move to a place of acceptance and resolution.
How does EMDR Help Heal Trauma
EMDR shows us that physical and emotional healing are very similar. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound; if a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. The block must be removed for a full healing of the wound to occur.
EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. EMDR helps the client process and accept the traumatic event that is interfering with the emotional healing process, causing the emotional wound to fester. The brain’s information processing system can naturally move toward better mental health once the block has been removed.
If you have any questions about how EMDR works, or about Trauma-Informed Therapy schedule call to see if therapy is a good fit for you please give us a call ((206) 765-8265). We are happy to schedule a test call or answer any of your questions.