Any frightening, life-threatening, or violent event can be traumatic. At its most severe, PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, can result. Traumatic symptoms can include disturbing thoughts, nightmares, reactions, and certain behaviors that can continue for years after the initial event has ended.
These reactions aren’t just unpleasant. They can intrude on your ability to work or study. They can become an active barrier to forming strong relationships. They can disturb your sleep and sap your energy. They can make it hard to trust or to take risks.
And they can prompt you to start avoiding situations that remind you of the initial trauma, even if those situations might be beneficial to you.
While everyone has their own, individual experience with trauma, there are common signs and symptoms.
Intrusive thoughts are common. You might also re-experience the traumatic event over and over again through nightmares and flashbacks, sometimes as though you’re right there. Sometimes these intrusive experiences may feature people, smells, sights, or sounds involved with the trauma.
Avoidance is another one. If you were bitten by a dog and now find it difficult to be around dogs, for example, you could be experiencing PTSD. But direct reminders and mirrors of the triggering event aren’t the only thing you might avoid. Many people don’t want to talk about the event, or even think about it, so they avoid anything that serves as a reminder, and isolate themselves from concerned family members and friends. You may also lose interest in activities which might have brought you joy or pleasure in the past.
A sense of worthlessness, guilt, or shame is common as well. So are other strong emotions, like anger, and distrust.
Many of the symptoms of trauma or PTSD overlap with other conditions, like depression or anxiety.
You should seek help immediately if you find you can’t manage the day-to-day symptoms of trauma without turning to alcohol or drugs.
But you should also seek help just because you’re experiencing distress. It’s bad enough you had to live through the horrible event which created the symptoms in the first place. You shouldn’t have to spend the rest of your life grappling with it, especially when there are ways you can receive relief.
Treating trauma requires specific knowledge and experience. Well-meaning professionals who do not understand trauma can unintentionally make things worse. When you seek help for trauma, abuse, or PTSD it’s important to choose a psychologist or a therapist with a solid understanding both of trauma and the traumatic response.
The way you experience trauma and abuse is very personal. I’ve worked with many clients over the years as they’ve recovered from early childhood trauma and abuse and sexual assaults. I’ve also worked closely with first responders and veterans. Many of the therapies I offer are well-suited for treating trauma and PTSD.
For example, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) uses your body’s built-in mechanisms to reduce your reactions to the trauma. Mindfulness can help you come back to, and live in, the moment when your past threatens to overwhelm you. And self-regulation therapy can help restore your sense of balance and control.
I can also help you with strategies to calm your racing thoughts, to get a good night’s sleep, and to regain self-confidence. My goal is to help you regain control of your life and to regain your power so you can move forward and enjoy your future.