What is Trauma?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.”However, a person may experience trauma as a response to any event they find physically or emotionally threatening or harmful.
There are several types of trauma, including:
- Acute trauma: This results from a single stressful or dangerous event.
- Chronic trauma: This results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Examples include cases of child abuse, bullying, or domestic violence.
- Complex trauma: This results from exposure to multiple traumatic events.
Symptoms of psychological trauma:
- Shock, denial, or disbelief.
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating.
- Anger, irritability, mood swings.
- Anxiety and fear.
- Guilt, shame, self-blame.
- Withdrawing from others.
- Feeling sad or hopeless.
- Feeling disconnected or numb.
A person who has experienced trauma may feel:
- difficulty concentrating
They may have emotional outbursts, find it difficult to cope with how they feel, or withdraw from others. Flashbacks, where a person relives the traumatic event in their mind, are common, as are nightmares.
Along with an emotional reaction, trauma can cause physical symptoms such as:
Sometimes, a person will also experience hyperarousal, or when someone feels as though they are in a constant state of alertness. This may make it difficult to sleep.
Individuals may also go on to develop other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems.
Secondary trauma, or vicarious trauma, is another form of trauma. With this form of trauma, a person develops trauma symptoms from close contact with someone who has experienced a traumatic event.
Emotional and psychological trauma results from an extremely stressful event that causes severe disability in daily functioning. This may include events such as a physical assault, emotional or verbal abuse, a life-threatening medical condition, an act of terror, or a natural disaster. Feelings of helplessness, anger, fear, nightmares, confusion, memory loss, and compulsive behaviors are some of the symptoms associated with trauma. There are multiple therapeutic approaches that can be used to help alleviate the signs and symptoms associated with trauma in order for the individual to experience a healthy and successful way of living.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an eight-phase treatment technique that is used by therapists. EMDR includes brief, interrupted exposures to the traumatic event, eye movement tracking, and recall of feelings and emotions associated with the traumatic event. The therapist determines which traumatic memory to trigger first and asks the individual to hold this specific memory and associated symptoms in mind. The individual visually tracks the therapist’s hand as it moves horizontally back and forth across the individual’s field of vision. This rapid eye movement approach allows new internal associations to form so the individual can process memories and disturbing feelings on an emotional level where empowerment and strength replace the fear and anger. Instead of feeling unease or fear of the past event, the individual will feel a sense of strength for overcoming such a traumatic event. The opened emotional wound is transformed into a scar of strength.
Our clients continue to be amazed at the rapid results we see from this technique. EMDR shows that the mind can heal and move towards mental health just as the body heals and moves towards physical health. When a bone is broken the body works to heal the break. In the same vein, the brain moves towards mental health once a blockage resulting from trauma is removed.
We can help.