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Trauma doesn't have a timeline
The trauma happened so long ago, but it still feels like it’s happening at the present moment. The nightmares and daytime flashbacks have made life unmanageable. You avoid the places and people that used to give you joy and meaning. The sense of feeling in danger all the time has affected your mood, which in turn has affected the quality of your school, work and intimate or social relationships.
You Are Normal
The good news is you and what your body is doing is completely common, normal, and functional. The problem is that for some reason your body and mind haven’t figured out how to calm themselves and eliminate the feeling of imminent danger and harm
Our bodies and mind all have a built-in “smoke alarm” of sorts. A protective system that keeps us safe in dangerous situations. Many years ago, when we were hunters and gatherers, we frequently encountered wild dangerous animals, such as lions and bears. It would have been very important for our ancestors to experience a “fight or flight” alarm system when in danger to keep them alive.
Fight or flight is a popular phrase in today’s culture, but it often fails to omit two other important terms. Those terms are freeze and fawn.
Let’s begin by explaining freeze. In our wild animal encounter, imagine that you had broken your leg. Unable to move, you were subjected to watch as the lion crawled around you. After a few minutes, you were miraculously saved by your tribespeople, While your life was saved, serious psychological damage was likely done due to your forced “freeze” response. Studies show that when individuals are not able to actively “fight” or “flight” in a traumatic situation, the body and mind never calm themselves down and are stuck in a sense of perpetual danger.
Fawn is the newest discovery of trauma responses and involves flattery to achieve a sense of safety. Fawning for safety often occurs in domestic violence situations
The two types of trauma
Trauma is often split into two categories. Type 1 trauma usually stems from a single sudden unexpected events. Think of a veteran who can no longer be around fireworks coming back from a tour of duty. This trauma while crippling, can often be easier to treat because it revolves around a single event.
Type 2 trauma is often referred to as long term or developmental trauma. Think of a young child growing up in a household with an alcoholic father, sexual abusive mother and emotionally abusive siblings. Due to the complexity and sheer number of factors, type two trauma can take longer to treat and require more numerous and various types of interventions. Rest assured though, both types of trauma are treatable and manageable. Keep reading below to see how we can help.
So how do I fix it?
The good news is that there is treatment and help available for those stuck in the state mentioned above. A couple of common trauma therapy interventions we provide are cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).
Cognitive processing therapy involves putting the traumatic events into an ordered more controlled state. During a traumatic event, the prefrontal cortex (the rational brain) funnels all of its energy into the limbic system (animal-emotional brain) to keep the individual safe. The problem though, is once the traumatic event ceases, the rational brain has no recollection of the event and is unable to process/move on from the event. In cognitive processing therapy, we work to construct a narrative of what happened so you can move on, put the trauma behind you and better manage your symptoms.
Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy utilizes many of the traditional Cognitive Behavioral techniques with an increase on behavioral calming skills and thinking strategies to bring down distress. Even gaining an education of how trauma affects the brain and body can be helpful in moving on.
EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and is quickly becoming the gold standard in treating simple and complex trauma. EMDR works through bilateral stimulation, engaging the right and left sides of the brain using either eye movements, tapping, lights, vibration and other form of stimulation in an alternating fashion.
EMDR is applied while the client focuses on a distressing event or negative belief. The level of distress decreases as the brain creates new connections. EMDR can be used as a stand alone treatment or in addition to some of the other treatments mentioned above.
OK, but starting therapy is so challenging!
What will my friends and family say?
Fearing the stigma of “being in therapy” is very common. The good news is that you don’t have to tell anyone you’re in therapy if you don’t want to. Although involving family and friends can be helpful, it is not always necessary to achieve significant results. We are also bound legally and ethically to confidentially, so you can rest assured that your private sensitive history will remain that way.
Therapy is a lot more accepted now than it once was. A recent study showed that 20 percent of all adult Americans are in therapy currently or have been in the past 12 months.
It’s OK to still feel on the fence.
You can rest assured there are many studies when it related to trauma-related interventions and because of the different types of trauma, an individuated plan of treatment is a must. With that being said, a study from the Veteran Affairs showed that nearly half of veterans who completed cognitive processing therapy alone no longer met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Contact us if you have any questions or concerns. We offer complimentary no risk 15-minute consultations to make sure we are the right fit for your needs. We will happily refer you to another practice if we feel they will be a better fit.
We wish you well on your journey of recovery from trauma!
Check out our blog below for more info on trauma!
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