Emotional trauma or psychological trauma is a reaction to an experience or event that is deeply distressing or disturbing to the individual. Trauma can be the result of things such as going through a natural disaster, being involved in a car accident, living through a major event, such as war or abuse, or having been the victim of a crime. A trauma response will be similar no matter what caused it.
When people experience a psychological trauma, it often shakes them to their core, especially if they felt they had little to no control over the event. They are left feeling helpless and they may experience flashbacks or have a persistent fear that something bad will happen to them again.
Even though these emotional responses are part of a normal reaction, trauma changes patterns in your brain, causing you to carry the burden of distress long after the events have passed. However, by working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma, you can experience trauma recovery and learn to feel safe again.
Often, shock and denial are typical reactions to a traumatic event. Over time, these emotional responses may fade, but a survivor may also experience reactions in the long-term. These can include:
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoiding events, places, or people that trigger memories of the event
- Persistent feelings of sadness and despair
- Anger or other unpredictable emotions, like feeling “on edge” or being irritable
- Physical symptoms, such as nausea and headaches
- Intense feelings of guilt, as if you are somehow responsible for the event
- An altered sense of shame
- Feelings of isolation and hopelessness
To aid in post traumatic growth:
- Resume your normal activities as quickly as possible. Structure helps to create a feeling of stability.
- Understand that your symptoms are normal following a traumatic event.
- Be patient and kind to yourself during this time. Get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet, and get some exercise to help relieve stress.
- Do what you must to create a sense of safety. Sleep with a light on, listen to calming music, or meditate.
- Talk to a therapist who specializes in trauma.
Psychological trauma therapy must be adaptable in order to address a wide range of symptoms and situations. Specially trained mental health therapists treat trauma by assessing a person’s distinctive needs and planning therapy modalities specifically targeted for them.
Fortunately, there are several modalities available to aid in trauma recovery. Traditional emotion-based therapy focuses on the unconscious memory of the trauma so the person is no longer overwhelmed by the past.
Traditional trauma therapy includes:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to teach the person to become more aware of their thoughts and beliefs about their trauma. CBT gives them skills to help them react to emotional triggers in a healthier way.
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help the person find relief from their emotional pain and strengthen the adaptive problem management skills they already possesses.
- In Vivo Exposure Therapy is a type of cognitive behavior therapy that helps the person reduce the fear response related to the emotional triggers caused by the trauma.
Additionally, recent studies have shown that body-oriented approaches can aid with the physical responses to trauma (heightened fear responses, exaggerated responses, hyper-arousal, etc.). These modalities are designed to work in combination with emotion-based therapy to help the mind and body reconnect.
- Mindfulness Training, which teaches the person how to refocus their attention to the present moment and away from what happened in the past. Through mindfulness training, you learn to evaluate your reactions as “just another experience.” Doing this makes the responses tolerable and manageable, so you aren’t focused on how upsetting they are.
- EMDR focuses on bilateral body stimulation to allow the survivor to tap into the biological mechanisms that come into play during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. EMDR has been shown to help trauma survivors with post traumatic stress disorder heal faster than through traditional therapy.
- Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback focusing on brain waves. Neurofeedback has shown promise in helping people learn to change their brain wave activity to become calmer and better able to engage with others
- Yoga – According to Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, a trauma expert, and medical director and founder of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, “befriending your body” is a crucial aspect of trauma recovery. Yoga can aid in this aspect.
Experienced Trauma Therapy
The specially trained clinicians at The Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorder’s Trauma Institute provide compassionate care for psychological trauma and trauma recovery. To find out more, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.