Trauma & PTSD
Stress is caused by pressure/demands on the mind/body, which can be positive ( e.g. being stretched mentally or physically within capacity/capability), or negative, as when overstretched. The most extreme stress is traumatic stress, caused by exposure to traumatic incidents. This threat, causes nervous system arousal, triggering the fight, flight or freeze responses. Symptoms normally diminish and disappear relatively quickly.
Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), is stress that prevents adequate functioning and which persists for months or even years, following traumatic incidents. PTSD, is the most extreme form of post-traumatic stress.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex condition, that massively disrupts the functioning of those afflicted, interfering with their ability to lead a normal life. It is broadly situation-dependant, resulting from involvement with events that are, or are perceived as, life threatening to self or others, sometimes through hearing about extreme violence to someone close to you, or through exposure over time to threat or violence.
The symptom profile for PTSD must typically include 1) Re-experencing the traumatic event(s) through flashbacks, panic attacks and nightmares, reacting as though such events were still occurring, 2) Avoidance of the trauma, which can include emotional numbing and diss ociation, 3) Arousal (hyperarousal) of the nervous system, constantly alert and unable to concentrate, relax or sleep. Symptoms can feel overwhelming and be totally destabilising, sometimes leading to unhealthy coping strategies such as self-harm and addictions. Trauma can lie dormant for years and then suddenly be triggered, often inexplicably to the person involved.
Trauma treatment of people who have experienced a single traumatic event can sometimes be relatively straightforward. However, trauma is often complicated, particularly when someone has experienced several traumas, or been exposed to a traumatic, frightening environment over time.
People suffering with trauma symptoms are normally highly aroused and hypervigilant and so my first rule for trauma therapy is always to help the client contain and reduce these symptoms, helping them to regain some sense of safety and control. Only once this has been achieved, will the client be stable enough to start working with the trauma memories.
Ultimately my aim will be to help the client integrate the trauma, so that those memories become coherent and tolerable. Some trauma can be resolved surprisingly quickly using the Human Givens Rewind Technique, or EMDR. But I do caution that everyone is different and for some with severe, complicated trauma, therapy can be longer term work. Indeed with some clients I may decide never to move beyond the safety of containment, building resources and resilience so that they can reduce the symptoms and regain enough control to rebuild their life.