Effects of Trauma
The essential psychological
effect of trauma is a shattering of innocence. Trauma creates a loss of
faith that there is any safety, predictability, or meaning in the world,
or any safe place in which to retreat. It involves utter disillusionment.
Because traumatic events are often unable to be processed by the mind and
body as other experiences are, due to their overwhelming and shocking nature,
they are not integrated or digested. The trauma then takes on a life of
its own and, through its continued effects, haunts the survivor and prevents
normal life from continuing until the person gets help.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition created by exposure
to a psychologically distressing event outside the range of usual human
experience, one which would be markedly distressing to almost anyone, and
which causes intense fear, terror, and helplessness. The trauma is an assault
to the person’s biology and psyche. The event may have happened recently
or a long time ago. There are 3 categories of PTSD symptoms: 1) hyperarousal,
2) re-experiencing, and 3) avoidance/numbing.
is when the
traumatized person’s physiology is in high gear, having been assaulted by
the psychological impact of what happened and not able to reset. The symptoms
of hyperarousal include: difficulty sleeping and concentrating, being easily
startled, irritability, anger, agitation, panic, and hypervigilance (being
hyper-alert to danger).
Symptoms of re-experiencing
include: intrusive memories, nightmares,
flashbacks, exaggerated reactions to reminders of the event, and re-experiencing
(including re-experiencing physical symptoms when the body ‘remembers’).
includes feeling robotic or on “automatic pilot” – disconnected
from feelings and from vitality, which is replaced by a sense of deadness.
Symptoms of numbing/avoidance include: loss of interest in life and other
people, hopelessness, isolation, avoidance of thoughts and feelings associated
with the traumatic event, feeling detached and estranged from others, withdrawal,
depression, and emotional anesthesia. Preoccupation with avoiding trauma
or feelings and thoughts related to trauma can become a central focus of
the survivor’s life.
it is normal to experience the range of symptoms typical of PTSD. However,
when these symptoms persist longer than 3 months, they are considered part
of the syndrome of posttraumatic stress disorder. In some cases, however,
symptoms may take a long time to appear. Delayed PTSD is often typical in
cases of childhood sexual or physical abuse and trauma. Symptoms can be hidden
by emotional constriction or dissociation and then suddenly appear following
a major life event, stressor, or an accumulation of stressors with time that
challenge the person’s defenses. Risk factors for PTSD include lack of social
support, lack of public acknowledgment or validation of what happened, vulnerability
from previous trauma, interpersonal violation (especially by trusted others),
coping by avoiding — including avoiding feeling or showing feelings (seeing
feelings as a weakness), actual or symbolic loss — of previously held beliefs,
illusions, relationships, innocence, identity, honor, pride.
Many people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder fail to seek treatment
because of not having correctly identified or recognized their symptoms as
trauma-related or not knowing their symptoms are treatable. Also, the inherent
avoidance, withdrawal, memory disruption, fear, guilt, shame, and mistrust
associated with PTSD can make it difficult to come forward and seek help.
Within our safe house environment
as well as healing retreats Post-traumatic stress disorder is much of the
treatment focus. Treatment for PTSD through psychotherapy involves helping
the trauma become processed and integrated so that it ultimately functions
as other memories do, in the background, rather than with a life of its own.
Our therapies initially focus on coping and comfort, restoring a feeling of
safety, calming the nervous system, and educating the person about what they
are experiencing and why and – through the process of talking – interrupting
the natural cycle of avoidance (which actually perpetuates PTSD symptoms
though it is initially adaptive and self-protective). The Hope Project
provides a safe place for trauma survivors to tell
their story, feel less isolated, and tolerate knowing what happened. Our
therapies help survivors make connections between feelings and symptoms occurring
in the present and aspects of the traumatic event(s). Through treatment,
survivors begin to make sense of what happened and how it affected them,
understand themselves and the world again in light of it, and ultimately
restore relationships and connections in their lives.
Successful treatment allows the traumatic feelings and memories to become
conscious and integrated – or digested – so that the symptoms are no longer
needed and eventually go away. This process of integration allows the trauma
to become a part of normal memory rather than something to be perpetually
feared and avoided, interfering with normal life, and frozen in time. Recovery
involves feeling empowered, reestablishing a connection to oneself, feelings,
and other people, and finding meaning in life again. Recovery allows patients
to heal so that they can resume living.