So, what exactly is trauma, PTSD, and it’s symptoms?
Trauma is experiencing a very scary, horrific, and life-threatening event. It may be e experiencing it directly, witnessing it, or hearing of a loved who directly experienced it. PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and defines the common reactions that can continue after a traumatic experience. Usually unwanted and repeated thoughts, images, emotions, and physical reactions that are difficult to control.
Common reactions to trauma include:
Repeated thoughts and images of the event
Repeated nightmares and disrupted sleep
Avoiding people or places that remind you of the event, or avoid talking about it
Not feeling safe
Difficulty feeling love, happiness, joy
Intense physical sensations including: rapid heartbeats, shakiness/trembling, weakness in the legs, easily startled or jumpy, hot or cold sweats
And its difficulty to stop or control these symptoms when triggered. Some may experience a sensation of being out of their body viewing themselves from a distance or moments of feeling like they are back reliving the experience again. Feeling as if their mind has been hijacked and taken over.
These are NORMAL bodily reactions that are being exaggerated.
In fact, if you’re reading this it means your body did exactly what it was supposed to do in such a situation. Help you Fight, Flight, or Freeze.
Fight back if you needed too and could. Runaway if there was an opportunity. Freeze because there wasn’t an opportunity to fight or run. Freeze allows you to get through until the situation is over without becoming completely overwhelmed.
So why are you still reacting if it’s over? Because when your mind is reminded, in any way, of the event, it believes you are still in danger and ready to protect you again. Ready to trigger your Internal Alarm System. It could be a person who looks like the person that harmed you, being near the place where it occurred, something on the news or social media, a word, a smell, a sound. Your mind believes you are in danger when in reality, you are now safe.
When you’re in a scary and dangerous situation, your mind doesn’t have time to process. Only time to help you survive. It’s all about reacting, not thinking. And without time to process, the memory becomes stuck like a broken record playing over and over.
But it is possible, through therapy, to help your mind become “unstuck” and return these exaggerated responses to a calm and appropriate response state.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) uses specific steps and protocols that have been proven to help those who have experienced trauma. One of the features of EMDR that many clients like is that not only do they see results quickly, but also do not have to verbalize every detail of the event session after session. It does this by allowing your mind to do the work. Once processed, the memory is put away just like any other experience in your life, but without the intense, uncontrollable reactions. It’s no longer the forefront of your mind and your everyday life.
Traumatic events, no matter recent or from the past, does not have to dictate you or your life.
If you would like to learn more about trauma, EMDR, and how therapy can help, please contact me for a free 20-minute consultation.