by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 21, 2018 counseling for PTSD, psychology, psychotherapy, ptsd, trauma, trauma informed care, trauma therapy0 comments
We have fantastic and astonishing memory abilities, the human mind and its processes, particularly in the way we store and retrieve the effective memories which then effect the way that we store and respond to our other memories and sensory input. Evolutionary psychology examines the way some things that can be problematic are often helpful to us in the past and as we evolved. This is especially true for trauma survivors. According to the American Psychological Association, Trauma is an emotional response to a event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster, abuse or assault. Immediately after the event, shock, emotional upheaval, loss of ability to function, and denial are typical. Trauma is especially present in situations where a person feels powerless and their sense of control are taken. Long term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea, nightmares, inability to rest or calm down, feeling tearful, experiencing fear and heightened startle response. While these feelings are very universal response to the paralyzing fear that is associated with trauma even if the survivor reports feeling neutral in the moment. Biology offers some rational for how we can feel afraid but work through it in the moment of the traumatic situation, but it is later when we are safe and comfortable that the panic can emerge, generally emotions are something that can be seen and felt most when everything is alright around us, meaning the traumatic event is over and we are safe. Some people have difficulty moving on with their lives because trauma can result in long term effects such as post traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
There are so many events that we experience which are traumatic, whether these develop into the more complex constellation of behaviors which we identify as PTSD, really depends on an interplay of biological, social, and other environmental factors. Some of the situations which can cause a trauma response include, domestic violence, sexual violence or assault, car accidents, national tragedies, serving in war, robberies. It is possible that we can experience a traumatic response my witnessing these events even if we are not the direct recipient of the threatening attack.
People who later feel the emotional and physical effects of trauma may wonder, what is wrong with me? Also, even if the event seemed manageable in the moment, it seems bizarre that they keep seeing flashes of it months or years later. The answer is while the effects of trauma can be debilitating, our cognitive processes are primed to be traumatized. Evolution explains that we and our ancestors are wired to hold tight to frightening or threatening experiences, imagine what happened to all of the humans who did not startle and produce massive amounts of cortisol and adrenaline at the sight of the saber toothed tiger just through the northern passage on the savannah. They died and did not evolve to have offspring in our gene pool. Having memory of dangerous events, people, situations, and gearing up to flee or protect one’s self is a sign of an evolutionarily healthy adaptation, it allows us to stay safe by avoiding possibly dire situations. In fact, our Vagal nerve which communicates directly to our bodies, without having to yield the advice of our logic, there are long term changes in the way that our Vagal nerve responds to triggers after we have experienced trauma. The vagal nerve is what allows healthy people to experience the ‘startle response’ for example when someone sneaks up behind you, usually we respond with a physical jerking motion in our bodies, and literally jumping. In domestic violence survivors, being ‘jumping’ and easily startled when a person raises their hand, is a well noted phenomenon that may last an entire lifetime.
We are wired to remember traumatic events. Survivors of trauma know that the sight of the perpetrator of their violence, even a coat that’s the same color as the one their attacker had worn can evoke the fear response. ‘Triggers’ are any stimuli which we associate with the traumatic event. These triggers and their associated memories can and do produce a jolt to the vagal nerve resulting in heightened, panicked, and anxious response in the person who is perceiving them. The biological response when we encounter a trigger are a plenty, our bodies enter a state of hyper-arousal, respiration becomes more shallow, heart beat rises, and fear settles in, even cognitive function is impaired as our higher order reasoning is impeded and all neurological resources are yielded to the hind brain and its motor and autonomic functions. The one and only thought becomes fight, flight, survive, and in some cases freeze. Remember, just like on the savannah in the seat of civilization, the extra energy our bodies create allow us to escape danger.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, systematic desensitization, and exposure therapy, and some therapies which aim to change the tone of the vagal nerve are recommended ways to work through the trauma and empower the survivor to be able to withstand exposure to triggers and regain emotional wellness. It is recommended that trauma survivors do their best to limit exposure to triggers as they heal from the event and associated memories. If you feel that you may be experiencing long term effects from a traumatic situation, it is recommended that you work with a therapist who is specifically trained in trauma informed care. Healing will allow the processing of the entire event, client and therapist will identify triggers, developing the capacity to respond to triggers with mindful balance, and work through the effects of any other psychological effects from the trauma.
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Serving Western Pennsylvania with Individual Therapy, Couples Therapy, Family Therapy and Wellness Services.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 1, 2018 anxiety, anxiety therapy pittsburgh, cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, counseling for anxiety, counseling pittsburgh, help for anxiety, licensed therapist monroeville, licensed therapist pittsburgh, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, searching for a therapist in monroeville, searching for a therapist pittsburgh, therapy, Therapy and Counseling For Anxiety0 comments
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a form of anxiety disorder which stems from exposure to a traumatic event or situation which caused real or threatened injury to and this can also be caused by the witnessing of an event or situation which injured or threatened injury to another person. According to the DSM IV, there is a lifetime prevalence rate of about 8% for the development of PTSD. Muggings, rape, terror, hostage attacks, natural disasters, car accidents, are situations that can increase the likelihood that a person may develop PTSD.
As a therapy practice which also specializes in marriage and family counseling, we support the research which suggests that individuals who have experienced an infidelity in their relationship may also go on to develop symptoms of PTSD or Acute Stress Disorder.
There are certain occupations which put people at risk for developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by exposing them to frightening and dangerous situations. Those who work as military/armed forces, policeman, fireman, and detectives may be particularly vulnerable for developing PTSD. Finally, there is a second form of PTSD, Vicarious or Secondary trauma, this form of trauma is caused by exposure to information related to traumatic events and is commonly seen in therapists, social workers, attorneys, judges and persons who offer support and services to those who have had trauma.
The Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD are;
- The person has witnessed, was confronted with or in some way threatened with death or serious injury to the self or others.
- The response to this event or threat was intense fear, horror, anxiety, and or helplessness.
- The events is then continually and persistently re-experienced in the form of imagery, thoughts, perceptions, the person may also experience frightening and recurrent dreams related to the traumatic event. The person will then attempt to avoid any associated triggers of the event and have an over all numbing and or a hyper-vigilance meaning they become hyper-aroused when exposed to triggers for the trauma. They also may have difficulty falling asleep, concentrating, regulating mood, and have an increased startle response. Individuals exposed to trauma may too are also at increased risk to develop mood disorders such as depression and are also at increased risk for developing substance abuse.
Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often involves Trauma Focused therapy with a licensed professional counselor or therapist as well as medication therapy in certain instances. Another form of therapy which has proven effective in clinical models is EMDR.