All Posts in Category: Trauma

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An Omicron Infection Is Not A Failure

For nearly two years, the country has tried their best to dodge the coronavirus. We have submitted to lockdowns, hidden ourselves away at home, and shunned gatherings with friends and family. When vaccines rolled out last year, many Americans lined up to get the jab. Millions more have gotten a booster and vaccinated their children as soon as they were eligible. Despite our vigilance, the Omicron variant is ripping through the country, infecting both the vaccinated and unvaccinated in record numbers. After being so careful for so long, how have we failed to stay safe?

In part, some of our distress at the high number of Omicron cases is due to a misunderstanding of what vaccines do. When they were first rolled out, both the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines reported above 90-percent efficacy rates against the virus. If you got the feeling that you were pretty much invincible after being fully vaccinated, you’re not alone. Vaccination, combined with mask-wearing and social distancing, made it seem as if we were golden.

Not so much.

Then, at the beginning of the summer of 2021, the CDC loosened mask-wearing restrictions. They told us that it was fine to gather in small groups, as long as everyone was vaccinated. We began to feel like we were climbing out of the valley and catching tiny glimmers of hope that the pandemic might be nearing an end.

But then Omicron replaced the Delta variant across much of the world, and suddenly everyone is either sick or knows several people who are.

The timing of the new variant was awful, coming right around the holidays. Many people were forced to cancel plans to see loved ones, or to travel, and all the trauma of the past two years came flooding back to us.

After all, the pandemic has been very traumatic for countless people. Anxiety, depression, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) have now become part of our daily lives.

By definition, a post-traumatic stress disorder can occur when someone has “experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with a terrible event.” Although facts and figures are still emerging, mental health professionals are now recognizing that factors associated with the pandemic have given rise to what is being called “Covid PTSD.”

“We are seeing more and more traumatized people in our clinic and many express a feeling of being hopeless and disheartened now that Omicron is here,” says Andrew Rosen, Ph.D., psychologist and Clinical Director of The Center for Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, FL. “If they catch it, they feel as if they have failed themselves and everyone around them.”

But, is catching Omicron really a “failure”?

Absolutely not. In reality, we have succeeded. What we need to do now is revise our way of thinking about the pandemic’s trajectory.

When the virus began, our arsenal was designed around “flattening the curve.” It was never intended that we could completely stop the virus. We only hoped to slow the spread so we wouldn’t overwhelm our resources and wouldn’t have more sick people than hospitals and staff could handle.

Now, we have Omicron, which Dr. Anthony Fauci says, “with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody.”

Scientists have determined that Omicron has “upwards of 50 mutations in its genome, 30 of which exist in the gene encoding Spike,” according to the American Society for Microbiology. With an unprecedented rate of transmission (it replicates 70 times faster than Delta), we aren’t going to be able to outrun it or hide from it.

Instead, right now it is very important to find a calm “center” – something that can help to shield you from the stress. After all, you may not be able to change the larger picture, but you can definitely control your personal environment and work towards attaining a small measure of peace.

Making time for self-care can help you regain a sense of control, which reduces anxiety and soothes your emotions. “Above all, make sure to break away from what you fear if it is something you are focusing on too much,” says David A. Gross, MD, a psychiatrist and the Medical Director at The Center. “When we are in the grip of fear, it is sometimes hard to stop the catastrophic “what if” thoughts that come along with those emotions.”

If you are highly focused on something that is creating stress for you, that laser-focus creates more stress and anxiety. Redirecting your attention to something else can break that destructive pattern. Things that require the sensation of touch – like knitting, kneading dough, folding laundry, or exercising – are very helpful in allowing you to turn off and let go of your distressing thoughts.

“Know that it is okay to ask for help,” says Dr. Rosen. “We all have days when we feel sad, stressed, or angry, but it is best to seek help if you can’t shake those feelings after a reasonable period of time. Think of it like you would if you had a wound on your arm that won’t stop bleeding or a headache that won’t go away. You would go to a doctor for help in those cases and you should do the same for the Covid trauma that is troubling you now.”

“Remember that mental and emotional trauma create changes in brain function, which means your distress is not your fault. In many cases, you can use self-care to reduce your anxiety, but if your symptoms continue for more than two weeks or seem to be increasing, we encourage you to seek therapy.”

Dr. Rosen and Dr. Gross are co-authors of Covid Trauma, Healing From The Psychological Impact Of The Coronavirus Pandemic.

Learn To Feel Safe Again

If you are struggling with coronavirus anxiety, reach out and get the help you need. By working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma, you can experience recovery from your PTSD relating to the pandemic. For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.

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It’s All About Trauma

“Now is the winter of our discontent,” a speech by Shakespeare in Richard III says it all as we muddle through the beginnings of a third year of this pandemic. This horrendous experience has taken a toll on all of us. David Brooks in his op-ed in the NY Times (America Is Falling Apart at the Seams, NYT, Jan 14, 2022) comments on the current misbehavior of Americans. He describes the angry outbursts noted on commercial airline flights, in retail establishments, as reflected in highway fatalities, suicides and homicide rates or even evident in members of Congress. He identifies the usual suspects including the pandemic, politics, media, Facebook/Twitter/Instagram et al.

I think that we would all agree with his observations and many, if no most of us identify with the frustrations, irritability and general crankiness that has resulted from the Covid 19 “gift that keeps on giving”. However, I believe that there is more to the story than what is stated above. It is my contention that the entire populace has been traumatized by the unfortunate saga that we have endured. The unremitting psychological stress has resulted in anger, frustration intolerance, depression, hopelessness, out-of- character risk taking, impulsivity, substance use and a general loss of trust.

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trauma

What Type Of Therapy Is Best For Trauma?

Trauma is the result of a life-changing, emotionally devastating experience that significantly alters our sense of normalcy. It may cause us to change the way we live our lives and make us question the world around us.

Trauma often manifests in heightened anxiety levels and feelings of isolation if others can’t understand what we have been through. In some cases it can even catch us off-guard if its effects suddenly surface years after the traumatic experience(s).

The list of what might constitute a traumatic incident is extensive but examples include such situations as:

  • experiencing or witnessing interpersonal violence
  • being the victim of bullying, hate crimes, homophobia or racism
  • can also occur after being diagnosed with a serious or potentially life-threatening medical condition, such as getting Covid-19 or cancer, or after the sudden death of a loved one
  • may result after being involved in combat or a terrorist attack, experiencing or witnessing sexual assault or abuse, or surviving natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

Any unexpected, overwhelming event can leave you feeling traumatized, shocked, and confused. You may feel like your world has tilted on its axis, but there are some things that might help.

What Are The Treatment Options For Trauma?

Trauma and the subsequent recovery process is unique to each person. The treatment that works for one person may not help another at all, because everyone has different responses during their recovery.

If you are seeking treatment for trauma, it is important to look specifically for therapists who specialize in this area. This specialist should do a comprehensive intake assessment at your first appointment, so they can create a treatment plan that is specifically tailored to your goals and needs.

As part of this plan, the specialist should advise you of the individual trauma-informed therapy they feel will best help you. This could include a combination of:

  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) – EMDR is a powerful therapeutic technique that helps people process trauma on an emotional level. It has been shown to help sufferers of PTSD heal faster than through traditional therapy, often in as few as six to twelve sessions. EMDR uses bilateral (both sides of the body) stimuli to tap into the biological mechanisms the brain uses during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. The theory is that using REM while recalling the disturbing thoughts or memories of the trauma helps the brain process it naturally, allowing the mind to heal.
  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you to become aware of your beliefs and thoughts about the situation. Once you identify them, it gives you the skills to see whether there are facts to support those thoughts and how to let them go if there aren’t.
  • CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy) – Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is an effective form of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been proven to help reduce symptoms in people who experience trauma.
  • CBP (Component Based Psychotherapy) – CBP is an innovative, evidence-based approach to treatment that was developed for adult survivors of complex interpersonal trauma. It works especially well with those who have experienced childhood emotional abuse or neglect
  • DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) informed individual and group therapy – DBT is a modified version of cognitive behavioral therapy. It focuses on living in the moment and teaches positive coping strategies along with healthy ways to regulate emotions.
  • Psychodynamic therapy – Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a form of “talk therapy” that helps patients find relief from emotional pain. It attributes psychological problems to the subconscious motives and conflicts in one’s life, which can be due to past experiences or unresolved issues from childhood.
  • Medications may be used in conjunction with therapy, in some cases. Medication is safe and effective when used properly and may be recommended as an option, depending on severity of symptoms, other medical conditions, and other individual circumstances.

In some situations, couples therapy or group therapy can be a helpful addition to these therapies.

When To Seek Professional Therapy For Trauma

When people experience a psychological trauma, it often shakes them to their core. They may feel hopeless, helpless, and deeply unsafe. Trauma can take a long time to recover from, but recovery is possible.

Trauma symptoms can:

  • Make it difficult to have a close, fulfilling relationship
  • Create problems at home or at work
  • Cause you to avoid situations, places or people, and other reminders of the traumatic experience
  • Leave you feeling “disconnected” from others or numb
  • Cause you to turn to substance abuse as an escape method
  • Begin or increase flashbacks, nightmares, or terrifying memories
  • Cause you to suffer from severe fear and anxiety that doesn’t seem linked to anything in particular (i.e., constant low-grade stress)
  • Create negative thinking or cause you to blame yourself for what happened

If months (or years) have gone by and you are unable to shake your symptoms or they are dramatically affecting your day-to-day life, it is time to seek professional help.

Working through trauma can be a difficult and potentially re-traumatizing process. The best way to heal from these experiences is by working with an experienced trauma therapist.

It is important you feel safe, respected and understood when seeking therapy for trauma. If you don’t feel like you can trust your therapist, look for another who will work better for your specific situation.

Let Us Help

Trauma can be difficult to understand and even more so, to handle on your own. Whether your challenges are recent or from years ago, the professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Is Suicide Contagion Behind The Recent Parkland Deaths?

We are only one month past the first anniversary of the shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School and this past week we have all been saddened to learn of the suicides of two students who survived the attack. Additionally, the father of a child who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shootings also died this week – apparently due to suicide. Is it possible that these deaths are the result of suicide contagion?

What Is Suicide Contagion?

When the media reports that someone notable has died by suicide, it often seems that other suicides quickly follow – as if taking one’s life somehow becomes “contagious.” As an example, we saw this phenomenon last summer when Anthony Bourdain took his own life within days of Kate Spade’s death. Now there are concerns that this most recent suicide cluster involving the Parkland students and the Sandy Hook father may have happened partly because of suicide contagion.

Suicide contagion is also known as the Werther Effect – a phrase coined by suicide researcher, David Phillips, in the 1970s. Werther was a character in a 1774 novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In the book, Werther kills himself after the woman he loves marries another man.

The book was blamed for numerous copycat suicides across Europe after its release. In this early example of suicide contagion, many of the victims died in a similar manner to the Werther character’s death in the novel. Some were even found with copies of the book on or near their bodies.

There is strong evidence to suggest that suicides can occur in groups. Moreover, Phillips’ research into clusters of suicides led him to conclude that copycat suicides rise when there is excessive media coverage of the suicide of notable figures.

The Media’s Connection To Suicide Clusters

Besides Phillips’ research, several other studies agree that suicide rates go up when there is an increase in media coverage about a suicide. And the rates fall when the media coverage stops. Dr. Madelyn Gould, a suicide researcher from Columbia University has said, “The way suicide is reported is a significant factor in media-related suicide contagion, with more dramatic headlines and more prominently placed (i.e., front page) stories associated with greater increases in subsequent suicide rates.”

And, as with Goethe’s book, suicide clusters also tend to happen when a fictional television or movie character dies by their own hand. Dr. Gould says, “Research into the impact of media stories about suicide has demonstrated an increase in suicide rates after both nonfictional and fictional stories about suicide.”

Experts have long debated why suicide contagion occurs. Does the news coverage of a suicide cause other people to take their own lives or do they do so because they were already in a vulnerable state?

Either way, media guidelines for reporting these deaths have been in place in many parts of the world since the end of the twentieth century. The Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both issued policies for how news reports should cover notable and celebrity suicides.

Nowadays, however, we have a new concern. In the twenty-first century, we rely less on standard media reporting (like radio, newspapers, or television reports) and depend more on online sources to find out what is happening around us.

In particular, young people get their news from the internet and social media, which can spread a topic far faster than news broadcasts and – unfortunately – can do so with no filtering.

Suicide Risk Factors

In the case of the Parkland tragedy, we know that the first student to take her life was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She also suffered with survivor’s guilt, as do many of the teens who were there that day. It can be devastating to know that you’re still alive, but your friends will not reach the milestones that you will. Instead of being happy occasions, events like graduation or the first day of college are often very distressing for a survivor.

For young people between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is already the second leading cause of death and this is without factoring in the trauma of a massacre like the one in Parkland. Clearly, we need to talk more openly about suicide prevention.

Adults and peers can help prevent a death by watching for youth suicide signs and risk factors and asking direct questions.

Although a risk factor can’t predict if someone will take their own life, having one or more of them makes it more likely the person will consider or attempt suicide. These risk factors are:

  • Mood or mental disorders (particularly anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and some personality disorders)
  • A personal history of trauma or abuse
  • Feeling hopeless
  • A family history of suicide
  • A previous suicide attempt
  • Isolating themselves or having a lack of social support
  • Stigma against asking for or needing help
  • Alcohol abuse or abuse of other substances
  • Absence of mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Knowledge of recent suicides of peers or learning about others who have taken their lives via news stories, the internet, or social media
  • Suicide ideation

The chances of suicide can also increase in someone who has recently had a financial loss, been diagnosed with a major physical illness, lost their job, or lost a close relationship.

Preventing Suicide

The first step in suicide prevention is awareness that someone is considering suicide. The next step is determining whether intervention is needed immediately.

If you know someone is at risk, you can help them by using the Columbia Protocol suicide risk assessment. The Columbia Protocol was developed jointly by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In 2011, it was adopted by the CDC and today it is used worldwide to assess at-risk individuals.

The Columbia Protocol is a series of three to six simple, direct questions that you ask the person you are concerned about. The answers they give will provide enough information to know whether they need help and whether urgent action is needed (download the free Columbia Protocol toolkit now).

If your child or someone else you know tells you they are considering suicide, don’t judge them. Instead, show compassion for their feelings. Next, get help from a mental health professional or a suicide crisis hotline. The crisis hotline is especially critical if the person is in immediate danger of attempting suicide.

Never leave someone alone if they are threatening suicide. If you believe they are in immediate danger, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) in the United States. The line is open 24/7.

Let Us Help

If you are worried about yourself or a loved one who may be at risk for suicide, talk to the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. Contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

References

Forum on Global Violence Prevention; Board on Global Health; Institute of Medicine; National Research Council. Contagion of Violence: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2013 Feb 6. II.4, THE CONTAGION OF SUICIDAL BEHAVIOR. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207262/

 

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Abusive Relationships – Are You Involved With A Narcissist?

Abusive Relationships – Are You Involved With A Narcissist?

A narcissist is usually described as someone who believes they are better than others. It’s all about them. They think they know more about everything, are better looking, and have a better personality than those around them. They don’t have much regard for others.

Narcissists feel they deserve special treatment because they are so special. Everything they do stems from their need for approval. Life is good as long as they get their “fix.” But, those in a relationship with a narcissist often find that they unknowingly say or do the wrong thing, which sets off the narcissist’s hostility – even in minor situations.

What Makes A Person A Narcissist?

When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, the beginning stages can be overwhelmingly romantic. Narcissists are often popular people who are charming and engaging. They’ll “sweep you off your feet,” causing you to overlook any red flags.

In a new relationships, narcissists will go out of the way to make you feel special by sending flowers and surprising you with thoughtful gifts. They’ll flatter you and tell you how wonderful you are. They usually want quick intimacy and a commitment from you.

But, they are prone to grand ideas and exaggeration. They often have more than one intimate partner (even if they are in a long-term relationship) because they need more attention and admiration than one person can give them.

When something goes wrong, they lash out and their loved ones are generally their primary target. Narcissists have trouble holding positive feelings toward someone while they are angry at them. Thus, they become cold, withhold their love and attention, and sometimes become violent.

Their bullying and belittling is a way to cover up an underlying fear that they don’t measure up. A narcissist must maintain superiority at all costs, even if it means putting down or insulting their loved one in public or striking them in anger.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

In a 2009 study, Levy et al., noted that, “Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a sense of privilege or entitlement, an expectation of preferential treatment, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”

A 2008 study by Stinson, et al., revealed that 6.2% of the U.S. adult population has NPD. The disorder is most common in males. It is thought to be caused by both genetics and biology, combined with the person’s early home life and life experiences.

Psychology Today reports that narcissistic personality disorder is indicated by five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Exaggerates own importance
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance
  • Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions
  • Requires constant attention and admiration from others
  • Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals
  • Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
  • Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes

How Do You Get Away From A Narcissist?

Don’t think that a narcissist will change if only you care about them enough – especially if the person has NPD.

No matter what you do, it will never be enough, last long enough, or be loving enough for them, unless the person can become more self-aware. But, it is a rare narcissist who digs deeply enough into their own shortcomings to change that much.

In their minds, everything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault. In a relationship, they fault their significant other, although their loved one has no idea what they did wrong.

Tiptoeing around their outbursts isn’t going to change them. Letting them rant won’t pacify them. In order for them to change, they have to want to change – and a narcissist won’t even be willing to try unless they can really understand and empathize with your pain.

If you want to leave a narcissist:

  • Block them from your social media, block their phone number, and block the friends you have in common. A narcissist can’t stand to lose, so they’ll have no problem using any of these methods to win you back.
  • Don’t go back, despite their pleas that they made a mistake or that this time will be different. For narcissists, it’s all about winning. They’ll say or do whatever it takes to get you back. But, if you go back, ultimately nothing will change and you’ll go through the cycle of upset, pain, and leaving them again.
  • Concentrate on the future. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship. Don’t worry about the narcissist or try to contact them. Once a narcissist realizes the relationship is truly over, they can move on with very little thought to the pain you are going through.
  • Don’t beat yourself up over the relationship. Narcissists are great manipulators and deceivers. There is even a term – narcissistic trauma bonding – that explains why it can be so difficult to leave a relationship with a narcissist.
  • Learn from the relationship so you don’t repeat the pattern with someone else.

Can Narcissism Be Cured?

Current treatment for NPD is talk therapy and group therapy. These modalities sometimes can help a narcissist learn to relate to others more compassionately. Additionally, mentalization-based therapy may help the person learn to analyze someone’s behavior before misinterpreting it and reacting inappropriately.

The success of any therapy for narcissism relies on the person being able to acknowledge that they have a problem. Given a narcissist’s inflated view of themselves and their general defensiveness, this can be challenging. In fact, to date there have been no randomized clinical trials examining the efficacy of any treatment for the disorder (Levy, et al).

For many people, the best thing they can do for themselves is to break away from the narcissist. If that isn’t possible, seek therapy and get support to rebuild the self-esteem and confidence you have lost because of your abuse.

Seek out a mental health professional who has been specially trained in trauma recovery to aid in healing from narcissistic abuse. A therapist can help you learn to communicate effectively and set boundaries so the narcissist can no longer take advantage of you.

Important: if you are experiencing physical abuse, understand that it will continue or will get worse. Get help immediately by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Let Us Help

If you are involved with a narcissist, get help from our specially-trained trauma recovery mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. To get answers to your questions or for more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

References

Levy KN, Chauhan P, Clarkin JF, et al.: Narcissistic pathology: empirical approaches. Psychiatr Ann 2009; 39:203–213

Frederick Stinson, Deborah Dawson, Rise Goldstein, S. Patricia Chou, Boji Huang, Sharon Smith, W. June Ruan, Attila Pulay, Tulshi Saha, Roger Pickering and Bridget Grant, “Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV narcissistic personality disorder: Results from the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 69, no. 7 (July 2008):1033–45, 1036.

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PTSD After The Sudden Death Of A Loved One

PTSD After The Sudden Death Of A Loved One

People form countless relationships throughout their lives – with family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. We have the deepest connections with the people we love – these relationships help make us who we are. They contribute to our sense of identity and have the power to transform us, for good or bad. Because of this, the death of a loved one can create numerous psychological issues, including PTSD, particularly if the loss was tragic and unexpected.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms

We know that survivors often experience depression or anxiety after the death of someone close. We don’t usually think about them having posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it can also happen, especially after a catastrophic death.

By definition, PTSD can occur when someone has “experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with a terrible event.” News of an unexpected death already brings up especially strong emotions because it catches us off guard. A tragic death magnifies those feelings.

In fact, a 2014 study¹ by Keyes, et al, noted that, “unexpected death was associated consistently with elevated odds of new onsets of PTSD, panic disorder, and depressive episodes at all stages of the life course.”

The symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Being frequently angry, tense, or jumpy.
  • Physical symptoms like heart palpitations, sweating, or hyperventilating.
  • Flashbacks of the trauma or dwelling on what the person might have gone through in their final moments.
  • Persistent avoidance of things or events that remind us of the person or place where the tragedy occurred.
  • Avoiding the emotions surrounding the death or event.
  • Problems sleeping or nightmares.
  • Changing their personal routine to avoid reminders of the event.
  • Distorted feelings of guilt; blaming themselves for the event.
  • Negative thoughts

Most of the time, people will slowly begin to recover from the initial shock and grief of a death. For those with PTSD, though, the symptoms dramatically affect their day-to-day life and they experience them for at least a month.

Treating PTSD After A Sudden Death

There are several effective treatment therapies for PTSD after the sudden or traumatic death of a loved one, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Sometimes medications are used in conjunction with these modalities.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A tragedy and the resulting trauma can alter your thinking as you try to process what happened. For example, you might feel overwhelming guilt as if you were somehow responsible for the event. Or you may feel detached from the world or from those you love.

These negative thoughts can cause you to avoid the things you normally enjoy or make you worry obsessively that you’ll lose someone else in a similar manner.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you to become aware of your beliefs and thoughts about the situation. Once you identify them, it gives you the skills to see whether there are facts to support those thoughts and how to let them go if there aren’t. In short, CBT helps you manage your destructive beliefs so you can replace them with accurate views.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR helps people process trauma on an emotional level. It has been shown to help PTSD sufferers heal faster than through traditional therapy. In fact, a study funded by the Kaiser Permanente HMO found that 100% of single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims were no longer diagnosed with PTSD after just six 50-minute sessions.

In PTSD, traumatic thoughts and memories work against the brain’s healing process. Flashbacks, nightmares, and disturbing emotions cycle through the brain, keeping the ordeal in the forefront of the person’s mind. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy can break that cycle.

EMDR uses bilateral (both sides of the body) stimuli to tap into the biological mechanisms the brain uses during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. The theory is that using REM while recalling the disturbing thoughts or memories of the trauma helps the brain process it naturally, allowing the mind to heal.

The bilateral stimulation a therapist might use can include:

  • Hand tapping or toe tapping
  • Eye movements (following a pattern of lights)
  • Musical tones

Let Us Help

If you or someone you love has been suffering from PTSD following the traumatic death of someone close to you, talk to the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida help. To get answers to your questions or for more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

References

  1. Keyes, K. M., Pratt, C., Galea, S., McLaughlin, K. A., Koenen, K. C., & Shear, M. K. (2014). The burden of loss: unexpected death of a loved one and psychiatric disorders across the life course in a national study. The American journal of psychiatry171(8), 864-71.
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7 Tips for Dealing with the Trauma of School Violence

The nation has been horrified to hear about another mass shooting this week. For many in South Florida, however, the trauma surrounding school violence has hit particularly hard because it happened right in our own backyard. Many people likely know someone or know of a family with a child who attends the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Because of this, you might find it challenging to deal with your feelings about the event.

Keep in mind that it is normal to experience strong emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, grief, and shock – even if you don’t know someone who is personally connected to the shooting. You might also have trouble sleeping or concentrating and you may even feel numb when discussing the incident with others. All of these reactions are typical responses of trauma psychology.

Tips for Overcoming Trauma after School Violence

It will take a while to move past this heartbreaking tragedy, but we have some tips for managing your emotions during this horrific time. Following these guidelines can help you build resilience – the inner strength that you can draw on when you’re exposed to trauma or adversity.

  • Don’t suppress your feelings. Everyone processes a stressful situation in different ways. Give yourself time to mourn the tragedy and remember that working through grief takes a long time. Don’t try to rush it. If you have a more intense reaction than you feel you should, talk to others or to a mental health professional.
  • Take care of yourself. It’s harder to work through strong emotions when you are tired or not eating well. Try to eat a balanced diet and get plenty of rest. Set aside some time during the day to get some physical exercise, which has been proven to reduce stress. Also, try to avoid using alcohol or drugs to deal with your reactions – studies show they intensify negative emotions and can suppress your feelings, making it tougher for you to deal with your emotional pain.
  • Turn off the news coverage of the event. Overexposing yourself to the anxiety and raw emotions of this community violence by watching endless replays on the news or by reading numerous reports on the internet can increase your stress. In particular, images of the school violence can trigger new anxiety or prolong episodes of distress about the event. Try to focus on something positive to help raise your optimism, which will, in turn, help you feel more encouraged.
  • Maintain a routine. Patterns can provide a sense of comfort and security when your world has upended.
  • Talk about it with others. By doing so, you give yourself permission to mourn. Additionally, sharing your shock and distress makes you feel more supported, less alone, and less overwhelmed.
  • Help others. Being of service to someone distracts you from your own problems, plus it boosts serotonin levels, which will help you feel more positive.
  • If you and your family or friends have been directly impacted by this mass shooting, you will experience some form of grief. You may experience survivor’s guilt because you have lived and your loved one did not. You may feel alone and want to avoid others. Grief is unpredictable – it can seem to lessen, then reappear when you least expect it. Milestones, such as birthday or holidays, will often trigger a fresh round of mourning. Understand that this is part of grief and grieving is a long process.

If you find you can’t move past this school violence or another traumatic event that has happened in your life, it may be beneficial to seek out a support group or turn to a qualified, licensed mental health professional in order to move forward. It is especially important to do so if you are unable to carry out the daily tasks of living, such as sleeping, eating, and other functions.

Our Trauma Professionals Can Help

The Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorder’s Trauma Center has specially trained clinicians on staff to help those who are grieving or who have gone through traumatic situations. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Dissociative Identity Disorder

When a person goes through an overwhelmingly traumatic experience, it is common to dissociate from it if it is too distressing to remember. For example, physical or sexual abuse might trigger detachment, the same way that going through an event such as the recent mass shooting at the Las Vegas concert may cause a survivor to “blank out” the memory that is causing emotional pain. For some individuals, however, their distress is so severe they may not be able to connect with their memories, feelings or even to their own sense of identity. These people likely have Dissociative Identity Disorder.

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Resilience and Optimism Can Predict Trauma Response

Resilience and Optimism Can Predict Trauma Response

How much of a part does resilience play when it comes to dealing with emotional or psychological trauma? As it turns out, quite a lot. Resilience is the inner strength that allows you to adapt when you’ve been exposed to trauma or adversity. This characteristic is strengthened by optimism, which is the extent to which people feel positive and encouraged about their future. Studies have shown that those who are resilient and optimistic feel a higher degree of psychological well-being and are able to recover more quickly from disturbing events. These individuals are able to process stressful situations without becoming overwhelmed and can move through them without turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse.

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