Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tackling Trauma

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.
Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For some individuals, life is not an easy place. Lives have been disrupted by tragic events and, for some; the effects of tragedy can be carried with the individual, sometimes for a very long time. These situations act as monoliths, always looming over a person - in dreams, thoughts, and more significantly in the emotions.  Often, events that leave “traumatic footprints” in the mind are revisited over and over, with the same accompanied feelings of terror, shame, guilt, and despair as if the situation were happening outside of the conscious realm.

One of the more interesting facets of trauma is that it doesn't have to be a life shattering event to have a lasting effect. An event may appear neutral to the outside world, but what really counts is the subjective views of the situation. Internally, the event may be interpreted in such a way that it creates extreme fear, horror, or helplessness.  That is what causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  There is more information on trauma here

Traumatic events can be a significant part of an individual's development, affecting a person through their defenses to the traumatic event. For example, one person may withdraw from their life temporarily, only in rough circumstances, or become emotionally “stuck” after experiencing a traumatic event. Another person may avoid thinking about the event or anything that is similar to it. This is usually because the association with the event is too painful to deal with. Often, trauma leads to other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.

It can be difficult to deal with traumatic events without help, so trauma responses may be ignored, despite how maladaptive a person’s behavior may become.  Despite all of this, all is not lost. There are viable solutions to traumatic events. Some of these are based around peer support, such as a twelve-step program or support group. A professional therapist is also another keystone in recovering from trauma. Recent advances in the understanding of trauma have moved it from the painful recovery process of “re-experiencing” the traumatic event to processing the trauma in a manner that involves more cognitive or physiological processing than emotional.  Put simply, treatment for most trauma has improved greatly over what it was ten years ago.

This post is to raise the awareness about trauma, because people with significant trauma issues feel guilt and shame for feeling the way that they do- and frequently turn to chemicals or other activities to deal with the feelings and behaviors that result. If you or a loved one has had a traumatic experience, please talk to a licensed counselor that specializes in trauma resolution to obtain help, and know that treatment facilities
continue to provide assessment and treatment that takes trauma into account.

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