How can Trauma affect you?
Every week, we are contacted by people struggling with the aftermath of trauma. Traumatic events might include a single event, like a car crash, an assault or the death of a loved one. Traumatic experiences might also include long-term, chronic trauma and can affect a person’s ability to feel safe and to form healthy, trusting relationships. Long-term trauma might result from abuse or neglect in childhood, an abusive relationship, or ongoing stressful circumstances.
Often, trauma survivors describe that they are in a lot of pain, overwhelmed, and willing to do whatever it takes to begin feeling better. Trauma can create a lasting impact on many levels:
- Cognitive: Trauma affects the ability to process thoughts and make good judgments
- Emotional: Looping with emotions of shame, guilt, fear, anger, and pain
- Physical: Trauma affects the limbic system in the brain, causing the entire body and nervous system to experience fight/flight/freeze responses. It affects muscles, joints, digestion and metabolism, temperature, sleep, and the immune system in powerful ways
- Spiritual: Trauma affects our worldview, the lenses with which we see reality (typically so we see it as unsafe), our understanding and meaning of our life, society, and the world
- Social: Trauma can negatively affect relationships with spouses, family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.
What are the symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma?
Emotional symptoms of trauma might include:
- Shock, denial, or disbelief
- Anger, rage, irritability, mood swings
- Guilt, shame, self-blame
- Feeling sad, hopeless or despairing
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety and fear
- Withdrawing from others
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Emotional overwhelm
- Shut-down responses or dissociation
- Struggling with addiction, including increased alcohol consumption or emotional eating
Physical symptoms of trauma:
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Being startled easily
- Racing heartbeat
- Aches and pains
- Difficulty concentrating
- Edginess and agitation
- Muscle tension
Trauma leaves a finger print on your nervous system
Experiencing traumatic events activates powerful processes in the survival centres of the brain and in the nervous system. It can be helpful to think of trauma responses as Post Traumatic Stress Injury, rather than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Trauma responses are normal and expected human responses to abnormally upsetting events.
Oftentimes, in the aftermath of trauma, the survival centres of the brain remain over-activated. Even the slightest sign of danger, real or misperceived, can trigger an acute stress response accompanied by intense unpleasant emotions and overwhelming sensations. After experiencing trauma, many clients live in near-constant fear that it will happen again. It can be a full-body experience and can affect all areas of life, including work, relationships, and your overall ability to enjoy life.
Trauma leaves a real, physical imprint on your body, jarring your memory storage processes and changing your brain. Unprocessed traumatic memories can become sticking points that cause your mental and physical processes to malfunction. The nervous system essentially gets tricked into thinking the trauma is continuing to happen in the present.
How Trauma Therapy Can Help:
The good news is that we do have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain. This is where trauma therapy comes into play.
What happens in the brain and nervous system after trauma will vary from individual to individual. Our expertly trained Trauma Therapists will know how to work with you to help heal your trauma. We take into consideration the many ways in which your brain, your nervous system, your entire body, your emotions and your social connections have been affected. Your trauma therapist will work with you to:
- Assess and thoroughly understand how you have been uniquely impacted by the trauma in your life
- Help you to make sense of what is happening to you
- Help you gain understanding about what is happening in your brain, your nervous system, the rest of your body, your emotions and your relationships;
- Find strategies to manage and decrease symptoms
- Stop using suppression and avoidance as a form of defence
- Teach strategies to help your nervous system to flow back to a calmer state of being
- Integrate the event meaningfully into your life
- Begin to live in the present rather than constantly being retriggered by the past.
- Heal from the traumatic injury, so that you can move forward with a meaningful and enjoyable life
- Locating your internal strengths to minimize ongoing distress
Many clients who have experienced Post Traumatic Stress also experience, what we call “Post Traumatic Growth” – a sense of increased insight, learning, wisdom and growth in the aftermath of trauma. Our trauma therapists draw from a number of evidence based therapeutic interventions to give you an individually tailored healing experience, including:
- Trauma informed CBT
- Mindfulness based CBT
- Narrative Therapy