Everybody knows that surviving a traumatic event can cause long term emotional problems and can require treatment to overcome and heal. When you hear the word trauma or the phrase Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you probably think about people who have been in extraordinary situations, such as soldiers returning from battle, 9/11 first responders, or survivors of violent rape.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event, either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
However, what many people don’t realize is that the events in life that can potentially cause traumatic stress, are not only the ones that are most obvious. Military combat, sexual assault, natural disasters and terror attacks each clearly fit the definition of psychologically traumatic experiences. What is not as well known is that there are other painful events that you may not realize have had a significant emotional effect on your life. You don’t have to go through war, or live through unspeakable evil acts, to experience trauma.
Trauma is about any of your life experiences that made you feel helpless and overwhelmed and have left you struggling to cope with intense feelings and confusion. It’s about those experiences that continue to have sneaky ways of dictating the decisions you make, the thoughts you have, or even the aspirations you don’t reach for. The sudden and un unexpected loss of someone you love, or the break-up of a love relationship, being harassed or discriminated against in school, at work or in the community, surviving a life-threatening illness or health condition, going through a public scandal, are just some of the painful experiences that many people have a hard time moving past.
- Do you suffer from nightmares or flashbacks about traumatic events in your past?
- Is it difficult at times for you to stop thinking about what happened?
- Do you get anxious, afraid or panicked in situations that are not really dangerous, but might be reminding you of terrifying situations you lived through? *-
- Does this cause you to keep away from people, places or activities you would otherwise be able to deal with?
- Are there things you went through that you keep secret and don’t share with anyone because talking about it is too emotionally overwhelming?
PTSD causes lasting changes in the areas of the brain responsible for managing emotions, thoughts, and memories. When your brain is hijacked in this way, regaining control is difficult, no matter how long ago the traumatic event occurred.
PTSD treatment inspires hope, strength, relief, and enables people to make change.
Yet, your brain is resilient and so are you. PTSD treatment is designed to take advantage of your brain’s ability to reorganize itself in order to adapt and adjust to new situations, experiences, and environments. Your resilience is a powerful force.
In PTSD treatment, you will have the support of a caring and accepting therapist, committed to helping you create a safe place to remember and tell your story. You will learn skills that give you more control of the painful feelings your memories bring up, so they don’t have to overwhelm you. Mastering the ability to deal with the pain caused by the memories of the trauma will help you pace yourself as you recount what happened and how it has made you suffer. Through PTSD treatment, you can learn to overcome the intense fears you have been dealing with and become free to live the life you want.
There is another kind of trauma that affects millions of people. Complex trauma happens when a person suffers repeated abuse at the hands of a loved one or authority figure. The cumulative impact of multiple individual incidents creates a unique form of trauma that can be devastating. When the victim is a child, this can have severe effects on his or her development. Often the child will form patterns of behavior to deal with their experiences that will cripple them throughout their adult life. Child abuse, neglect or repeated exposure to domestic violence often results in complex trauma. Even commonplace situations, though, like being bullied repeatedly by a teacher can have major effects on the brain.
As children, we are more dependent on others for our survival, and being this vulnerable to our environment can lead to many situations in which you could feel helpless, powerless, and overwhelmed with fear. Research has shown the long-term effects of child abuse, whether it is physical, sexual or even emotional. For some people, being neglected as a child can be just as traumatic as being abused. Another relatively common occurrence that many children go through is being bullied by peers. If a child goes through this in a way in which they are unable to protect themselves or to get adequate protection from adults, it can create the overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and fear that are the hallmark of trauma.
The symptoms of Complex PTSD are diverse. They include difficulty controlling anger or emotions, low self-esteem, not being able to concentrate on anything for too long, and anxiety or irrational fears. You may be suffering from feelings of guilt, shame, sadness or hopelessness, or feeling disconnected or not like yourself. Some people who have survived childhood abuse, learned to cope by “dissociating,” which numbs them from painful memories and feelings but can make it hard to feel fully alive. Many people who suffer from complex trauma have difficulty trusting others and developing and maintaining relationships.
What happens in PTSD treatment?
My goal is to make sure that you understand that safety is an important factor in each of your sessions. Even if you feel ready to talk about your trauma from the get-go, we will need to make sure that you have adequate supports in place before you do. That might be a list of coping skills you can use if you feel triggered during sessions (or after them), and a network of family, friends, and outside resources you can reach out to for help in moments of crisis. I will also structure sessions in ways that protect you in moments when you get overwhelmed and allows you to move at a pace that you’re comfortable with.
Once we have established our sessions as a place of safety, talking about your feelings about what happened will help you find answers to questions that confuse you and to develop a narrative story that makes sense of what happened to you and how it has affected you. Gaining perspective will allow you to free yourself from painful feelings. Learning skills to confront your fears and to manage overwhelming feelings will help alleviate the symptoms of your PTSD.
You didn’t choose to have PTSD, and you can’t choose not to have it. But you can choose to overcome it. Let PTSD treatment help you unlock the potential of your inner strengths and become empowered to feel better and free to find the happiness you deserve.
Contact me to schedule an appointment for PTSD treatment. If you want to find out more about the process or about how I work, I offer a free telephone consultation to answer any questions you may have.
By reading this page you have taken a step towards healing and getting the help you need. Take the next step and call now.