Trauma is real and it very much affects us emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Trauma is when we experience events that evoke fear, helplessness, rage, or confusion that disconnect us from our typical coping skills. Trauma often causes us to split from our whole self whereby we utilize more survival traits. It is the feeling of being “stuck”. The challenge with trauma is that it can take over much of our daily operating functions leaving us feeling like we are crazy, sick, or permanently damaged. Often times many legitimate traumatic events go overlooked because we do not recognize how traumatic they really are. We may try to place them in our own certain categories of severity. The reality is that our bodies do not distinguish trauma like we would do. Instead, we may find ourselves obsessing over certain events or conversations all the while pressuring ourselves to stop feeling that way thereby unintentionally exacerbating the problem.
Trauma can be very difficult to navigate (especially without treatment) because often times we do not give it the attention it deserves.
Presenting Issues with Trauma
Trauma shows itself in the form of obsessive thoughts, nightmares, mood swings, and / or feeling helpless. It causes our brain to go into crisis mode. Sometimes the effects of trauma will appear in the form of dissociation, anxiety, or addiction. Trauma can be chronic, acute, or have a period of delayed onset. It may take on the form of PTSD or shows signs of PTSD but not fit all the criteria. Either way, if it is bothering you then it is worth getting treatment.
Additional Signs of Trauma
- Dissociation such as time slowing down, people appearing larger or smaller than life, time slowing down or speeding up, moments where you feel like you black out or go into a daydream like state.
- Mood Altering such as shifting quickly to states of rage and anger. Feeling very volatile or on edge
- Chronic Anxiety
- Addiction in any from such as drug, alcohol, or sex / porn addiction
Neurological Effects of Trauma
Trauma affects our brain to the extent that we go into a fight, flight, or freeze mode. Our prefrontal cortex (i.e. frontal lobe) disconnects from our limbic system (i.e. emotional part of the brain). As our result, we lose the ability of judgment. For example, you may have this overwhelming since of terror or rage at a very minor or normal occurrence to the average person. You may know intuitively that it is not a big deal but emotionally if feels really big. It feels so big that you just cannot shake it even though you have friends and family telling you it is OK. This disconnection is the aspect that leaves us feeling stuck and is the result of trauma.
The first step in treatment is assessment. We will work to help access the current stressors around either recent or past traumatic events. This also includes assessing current resources you have to help you as you are dealing with the effects of the trauma.
Options in Treatment of Trauma
(1) The most common is “talk therapy” by verbally processing the traumatic events with a trained professional. The most important aspect of sharing your story is that you feel safe and that you have resources in the moment to help you as you retell those traumatic experiences. A trained professional will help in keeping you grounded in the present.
(2) EMDR is another way to treat trauma. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. The easiest way to describe EMDR is that it is reprocessing therapy.
(3) Medicine Assessment - can be done with a Psychiatrist outside our counseling sessions
(4) Psychological Evaluations - will most likely be referred out to a specialized professional trained in evaluations.
(5) Referrals – sometimes its determined that based on your presenting issues that a referral would need to be made to a different specialized professional