Trauma Therapy – How to Overcome a Painful Past and Create a Better Future
Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.
Many people who seek trauma therapy suffer consequences of one or more traumatic events in their life. Even though many find ways to process trauma effectively and eventually resolve their issues through trauma treatment, other individuals with multiple traumas may require more intensive support. Professional trauma therapy provides a healing environment for people with trauma-related issues and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also be beneficial for individuals whose trauma recovery may be more intricate due to other factors such as addictions and physical illnesses.
Regardless of a person’s history of trauma, addiction or other mental health issues, progress starts once a person becomes aware of their trauma and acknowledges the way they respond. Trauma therapy helps individuals achieve this awareness in a therapeutic setting, by allowing a person to feel safe speaking about their experiences. For many, this is often the first time they have been able to do so.
By accepting emotional support from others and learning the tools that are vital to overcoming trauma, those with trauma-related issues can make significant breakthroughs and are also able to create a strong foundation for recovery.
What is Trauma?
Traumatic events that take place as both fetus, children and adults can cause permanent changes in our psychological and physical responses to stress. The term ‘trauma’ describes any unforeseen circumstance where a person’s emotional or physical well-being is disturbed by the stress of the situation. Any situation can result in trauma, though common examples include:
- Witnessing death
- Emotional neglect or abuse
- Physical injury and/or birth trauma
- Natural disasters
- Anxious or stressed parents
Once a traumatic event has occurred, it is normal and healthy for a person to experience grief or sadness for a certain period of time. However, some people develop distressing symptoms that persist for longer than they should. These symptoms end up overwhelming a person’s ability to live a normal and healthy life. Additionally, the symptoms do not seem to ease or wane as time goes on. They become a part of our personality, our belief system.
Symptoms of Trauma may Include:
- Persistent avoidance – including feelings, thoughts and situations
- Feeling disconnected from the world and others
- Re-experiencing the trauma – which may involve flashbacks, nightmares and distress when reminded of the event
- Negative changes in mood and thinking – which can cause feelings of numbness, blaming others or oneself, less interest in activities or feeling detached from reality
- Changes in reactivity and arousal levels – including irritability, aggressiveness, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating and reckless behaviour.
- Physical illnesses
Emotional Trauma Symptoms
Trauma usually manifests through emotion, such as through emotional symptoms like anger, denial, emotional outbursts and sadness. Trauma victims may redirect their overwhelming feelings towards friends, family members and other sources.
Another telling sign of a victim of trauma is anxiety. Anxiety caused by trauma can cause issues such as irritability, edginess, mood swings, poor concentration and night terrors. Even though these symptoms are quite common, they are not all-inclusive. People respond to trauma in various ways.
Physical Trauma Symptoms
A physical manifestation of trauma is also common. Common physical signs of trauma may include fatigue, lethargy, paleness, poor concentration, and an increased heartbeat. The victim may experience panic attacks or anxiety. They may also have a hard time coping in certain situations. The physical symptoms of trauma can be as real as symptoms of an illness or physical injury
Experiential work is therapeutic — healing and transformational — for many Experiential work is therapeutic — healing and transformational — for many reasons.
There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study. Five are personal -physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment. Each type of trauma counts as one. A person who’s been physically abused, with one alcoholic parent and a mother who was beaten up has an ACE score of three.
There are, of course, many other types of childhood trauma – watching a sibling being abused, losing a caregiver (grandmother, mother, grandfather, etc.), homelessness, surviving and recovering from a severe accident, witnessing a father being abused by a mother, witnessing a grandmother abusing a father, etc.
The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.
To learn more about ACE, visit https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/index.html