What Trauma Really Is And How To Treat It
Most people who suffer from trauma do not talk about it; in fact, most people will try to block it out or ignore it. If only that worked….
The reality however, is that trauma affects your mind, your body, your relationships, and your everyday life. It has been linked to depression, anxiety, anger, panic attacks, self-destructive behaviors, substance abuse, sleeplessness, and other mental health issues.
It can make your mind confused and your body hurt. It can convince you that you can’t get better or that you’ll continue to have the same problem in the future. Trauma can attack your emotions, your memory, your health, and your self-worth.
For some, trauma is also like an addiction. A person suffering from trauma can become addicted to the feelings and memories of the trauma. And just like an addict, he or she needs the substance to feel better.
It shouldn’t (and truthfully, can’t) be ignored.
What is Trauma Really Is
By definition, trauma refers to a psychological or emotional state that occurs when someone experiences a disturbing event, and the aftereffects cause the individual significant distress.
More simply put, trauma is anything that wounds you emotionally.
Big T’s and Little t’s
We can probably all label big traumatic events (“Big Ts”) that are life threatening and highly disturbing experiences. Physical and sexual abuse and near-death experience are a few examples of Big T trauma, but you don’t have to have to experience a big event to suffer trauma.
There are “Little t’s” too. The loss of a loved one, a job, or a relationship can cause Little t trauma. So can the unintentional neglect by parents who were busy providing for the family or taking care of a sick loved one. Really, any event or situation, or ongoing situation, that causes us distress, fear, hopelessness, or helplessness may result in Little t trauma.
What is particularly challenging with Little t trauma is that it can go unrecognized as trauma, and therefore untreated, yet the collective impact of Little t traumas, can cause us significant psychological distress and harm.
While trauma can happen in the short term or the long term, one big event or lots of little events, the impact of a trauma can last for years and wreak havoc on our lives and relationships.
It is important to seek professional help if you have been through a traumatic experience or are experiencing the symptoms of trauma.
A licensed counselor, particularly one who is specifically trained in trauma work, can help identify which of the treatments below could be most effective for you and your situation.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
EMDR helps patients reduce traumatic memories by helping them move through the stages of trauma through a series of eye movements and images.
The process is actually very simple. The therapist will ask you to recall a traumatic memory while viewing a series of neutral images. Your therapist will guide you on focusing on these images using eye movements and other ways to stimulate first, the part of your brain responsible for memory recall. Next you’ll focus on images that stimulate the amygdala, which is the part of your brain which helps control your stress response, also known as your fight-or-flight. The amygdala also controls the emotional and physical symptoms associated with PTSD.
As the amygdala becomes re-connected with the rest of the brain, you should begin to feel more calm, and the traumatic memories will begin to fade. The number of sessions required to achieve your desired results varies but usually is between 3 and 12.
ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy engages both the left side of your brain (the logical) and the right side of your brain (the emotion) to process the feelings from the trauma, so your left brain can communicate to your right brain that there is nothing to worry about.
ART shares some similarities to EMDR. Like EMDR, ART changes the way negative images are stored in the brain, however the process is a little different. With EMDR, the client will share at least a few details of the trauma with the therapist. In ART, the memory is processed mentally by the client, who can choose to share as much or as little of the details with the therapist.
While EMDR leverages more free-association, ART is more directive, with each session focusing on a specific memory. Additionally, ART tends to produce results more quickly, in as little as just one session.
We can help
Trauma doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone.
If you’ve experienced trauma, you may be experiencing anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, feeling hypervigilant or distrustful of others, struggling to sleep, avoiding social situations, and the list goes on.
If you’ve experienced trauma, it’s likely also affecting your relationships with those you love most.
I know first-hand the freedom experienced once you eliminate the effect trauma has on your daily living.
At Breaking Free Solutions we have therapists trained in both EMDR and ART who can help you experience the same freedom I’ve found personally, and that many of my clients have also found.
Interested in learning more?
Schedule a free 15-minute Discovery Call with us. We’ll answer your questions and help you get matched with a therapist who can help you take the next step towards healing.