Trauma & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
There are many different kinds of trauma. Some happen while we’re young, some tied to betrayal, natural disasters or accidents, physical illness or medical care gone wrong. A traumatic event can happen one time or several times, but entails feeling overwhelmed. When we are traumatized, our nervous system evokes a flight, fight, or freeze response. However, this normal response to trauma can become Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when the nervous system does not return to equilibrium and gets “stuck.” PTSD can be present in many different ways. Sometimes a person relives the traumatic experience through flashbacks or nightmares. This may cause the individual to be in a constant state of alert, or to avoid situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. They may also experience difficulty sleeping, or feel detached or isolated. If the symptoms for this type of disorder are severe enough the can significantly impact a person’s daily life and their relationships. Untreated, PTSD can become a chronic condition.
Some typical symptoms PTSD include:
Those who suffer PTSD may find themselves reliving the traumatic event through intrusive thoughts and memories, flashbacks, or nightmares. This may cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror; similar to the feelings the person had when the event first took place.
Avoidance and Numbing
Individuals with PTSD may try to avoid situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. They may avoid people, places, sights, sounds, or smells that are reminders of the traumatic event. Numbing symptoms are another way to avoid the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may try to cope by disconnecting from their feelings and isolating from others.
People with PTSD may feel constantly alert after the traumatic event. They may have trouble sleeping, experience irritability or anger, and they may have extremes in their mood or behavior. They may find themselves experiencing a state of hypervigilance; during which they are consciously or unconsciously on the lookout for signs of danger. When real or perceived danger is present, and individual with PTSD may experience a fight, flight, or freeze response.
Being able to talk about the event is paramount to healing. Talk therapy can help an individual feel more in control of their emotions and experience fewer symptoms. Cognitive-Behavioral, EMDR, trauma sensitive yoga, neurofeedback and other somatically oriented therapies have also proven effective in treating PTSD.