Trauma & PTSD
“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.”
The word ‘trauma’ is often misunderstood
Many people believe that someone must have gone through an extremely scary or life-threatening situation in order for it to have been traumatic. However, as we learn more about ourselves and how our brains work we have realized that this is not the case. Many things that happen in life can be traumatic. Let’s take a look at the actual definitions of the word ‘trauma’:
“An emotional upset.”(Merriam-Webster)
“Profound disappointment, betrayal, abuse.” (Google Dictionary)
“An experience that produces psychological injury or pain.” (Dictionary.com)
“A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” (Oxford Dictionaries)
“Experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” (SAMHSA)
“Psychological or emotional injury caused by a disturbing experience.”
These definitions are all getting at the concept that...
if something happens in your life that affects you in an emotionally big way then that could be considered a traumatic experience. Such experiences can range from your dad telling you that you can’t do anything right, to being fired from a job, to witnessing an accident, to being raped.
The take away is...
that things happen throughout all of our lives and we have all experienced traumas. If those experiences seem to still affect you today then you are not alone and are one of many others who are going through something similar and wishing that it would go away.
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
It's a term used to describe a set of symptoms that can come from having gone through a trauma.
Now, let’s think about this term…
‘Post’ = after
‘Traumatic’ = something distressing or upsetting
‘Stress’ = need I explain that one?
‘Disorder’ = a disturbance in mental health functions
This is describing the stress that disrupts your life after you’ve experienced something particularly upsetting. It has been most commonly referenced relating to war veterans, however, it can result from a plethora of experiences that one does not have to endured war to understand.
If you have ever wondered why things from your past are still affecting you then please know that there are neurological reasons for this, it’s not just you, and it’s fixable.
When we go through a distressing situation our brain catapults us into a ‘fight-flight-or-freeze’ response in attempt to keep us safe. Once the danger (emotional or physical) is gone our brain typically readjusts to the current moment, lets its guard down and allows us to continue our daily lives. However, sometimes, our brains malfunction causing these events to get stuck in our brains continuing to affect us even after the danger has passed. We may feel the same as we did in that traumatic moment long after the event passes, keeping us feeling ‘trapped’ or ‘locked’ in that memory. Many people have heard of flashbacks but not many realize that they can come in the form of emotions and body sensations not just images. We can hear, see, smell, or experience something that taps into those ‘trapped’ memories and we suddenly feel the emotions from the past right here in the present moment. This often comes out in what may seem like an exaggerated response to others while feeling intense to us.
After going through something traumatic, people may experience the following:
Please note that this list is long and can be overwhelming,
but remember, these do not have to permanent, that’s where I come in.
Frustration with ongoing symptoms
Depression or sadness
Shame & Worthlessness
Helplessness or powerless
Feelings of guilt for having not suffered as much as others
Emotional numbness (like being ‘in a daze’ or having a ‘it doesn’t matter’ attitude)
Recurrent anxiety over your safety or the safety of a loved one
Increased stress/anxiety in general
Increased fear related to situations similar to the event
Change in How You View Yourself
Feeling like a ‘bad’ person
Unrelenting self-criticism for things done or not done during the event
Feeling different now, to yourself and to society
Feeling especially ‘alone’
(thinking ‘they weren’t there, they can’t understand’)
Embarrassment of having symptoms
(wondering how others get through this or why you can’t seem to ‘just get over it’)
Loss of sense of self
Confusion about why you feel the way you do
Being 'on edge' in non-threatening situations
Loss of Interest
Being easily startled
Avoiding & feeling anxious about things that remind you of the event
Using drugs, alcohol, or food in attempt to soothe/numb feelings
Excessive Shopping or gambling- also in attempt to soothe/avoid the feelings
Dissociating/disconnecting from reality
Staying very busy to distract from emotional pain
Sleep & Pain Intrusions
Insomnia/ Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
(replaying the memory or images of it in your mind)
(hearing sounds, or even feeling emotions or physical sensations from when it happened)
Chronic Illnesses (fibromyalgia, IBS, heart disease, etc.)
Difficulty in feeling intimate in your relationship
Defensiveness around the topic of your trauma (even indirectly)
Increased overall frustration
Anger- Outbursts, sometimes without apparent reason
Family or work conflicts that didn’t typically happen before the trauma
If you relate to these symptoms
then you’ve probably noticed how they can impact your relationships with the people you love, the people you want to love, and even the people you have yet to meet.
Getting the past off your chest, cleaning out the attic, so to speak, can make your day-to-day life more enjoyable for you and the people spend your time around.
Ok, I’ve been through a trauma, can I really be helped?
Yes. Believe it or not, healing from this is very possible.
There are various types of therapy out there to treat PTSD and symptoms of trauma, personally, I lean towards ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) & EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) because of how effective they are. Through research and through experiences that both myself and my clients have gone through, I know that it can reduce the symptoms and potentially completely eliminate the PTSD symptoms.
I’ve had clients describe their response to treatment as, “I couldn’t even think about it before, but now it’s just a memory with no reaction to it”, and, “It’s there but it’s not controlling me anymore, it has no strength.”
‘Stuff’ from days, years or even decades ago can impact your day to day more than you might think, the freedom that comes from clearing out those memories is invaluable. I would love to be able to walk you through the process of healing the past.
Interested in lightening the emotional load that you carry feel?
Want to learn more about this process? you will likely find answers below: