Trauma. It is not your fault.

Trauma comes in many forms and someone doesn’t have to have survived war to deserve treatment. I often hear from patients, “Sure my dad would rage all the time and break stuff but it wasn’t real trauma.” “I’m not a veteran, I don’t have any right to complain. Those guys really go through a lot worse than I did.”

Developmental trauma, rape, adverse childhood experiences, combat, being stalked, witnessing violence, natural disasters, assault, neglect, verbal abuse, early loss of a parent, terrorism, emotional abuse, molestation, bullying, domestic violence, and sexual abuse are all forms of trauma and have the potential to complicate our ability to cope with stress, navigate relationships, and can erode our self-worth.

The symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are broken down into three categories: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal.

RE-EXPERIENCING:

  • intrusive or haunting memories

  • flashbacks

  • nightmares or night terrors

AVOIDANCE:

  • avoidance of the thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma. Examples of this include:

    • self-harm

    • destructive behaviors

    • disassociation

    • drug use

    • alcohol abuse

    • using sex to avoid feelings

    • avoiding intimacy, relationships, places or anything that triggers thoughts and feelings associated with the injury or threat

HYPERAROUSAL:

  • sleep problems

  • poor concentration

  • being easily startled or jumpy

  • excessive anger or irritability

  • feeling keyed-up or on alert

Shame is a very common emotion that accompanies trauma. We humans have a series of systems in place that lead to self-blame in the wake of traumatic events: we analyze how we could have done better to solve the problem or prevent the abuse; we’re the common denominator of all problems we have endured; we gravitate towards familiar attributes of early childhood relationships and often select people who continue the abuse cycle.

The harsh reality is that you did not deserve or cause the trauma, but it’s yours to heal. Many people who have suffered trauma will attempt to “stuff it”, ignore it, down play the severity, or use drugs and alcohol to avoid feeling the symptoms. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work and can often cause more consequences. There is a disturbingly high correlation between chronic pain, health issues, unhealthy and unsatisfying intimate relationships, chronic illness, and substance use for individuals who have suffered traumatic events.

With that, it needs to be your choice to start treatment. As a prescriber, I don’t attempt to process trauma - that is the work of my skilled and trained therapist colleagues - so if it’s a starting place to say to me, “Yes there was trauma but I don’t want to talk about it,” that’s absolutely okay. Healing from trauma is a process and will take time but it is so worth it! Although it can be difficult to get started, working with a therapist on trauma can proffer life-changing benefits: reduced symptoms of PTSD, healthier relationships, greater insight and self-efficacy, and ability to navigate challenges. When you’re ready for treatment beyond medications there will be a lot of options available to help you: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), narrative therapy, group work, individual therapy, trauma-informed yoga, and many more. As you go, keep your therapist informed about what you’re experiencing - in session and between appointments - so they can help you adjust the intensity or content of sessions as needed. If you’re ready to start therapy and don’t yet have a therapist please contact your insurance to receive a list of referrals or visit the bottom of my about page for a list of therapy resources.

Lis, you’re saying people who have suffered trauma really deserve the healing support of a trained therapist. So then how can you help me?!

Great question! Maybe we start with discussing medications that can help decrease the number of nightmares or flashbacks you have in a week. Or maybe the depression is what’s bothering you and discussing options to help reduce the despair is what is needed. Medications can help get things a little better so that you don’t feel like you’re drowning. [Please note that benzodiazepines have a long and documented history of worsening psychiatric symptoms and creating new problems for patients who take them, even as prescribed. Additionally, benzodiazepines are contraindicated when there is a trauma history as they interfere with the learning and reprocessing that healing requires. You won’t find me recommending them but if you’re working with another prescriber, pass on those.]

If you’re ready to get started, click the link below and let’s talk. Schedule your free phone consultation now.


RESOURCES:

The Healing Tree (link)

Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

BOOKS:

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessle van der Kolk

Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman

Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine