When someone experiences a traumatizing event, symptoms may appear later in life. These symptoms can manifest immediately or be triggered years later.
For survivors of natural disasters or abuse, PTSD could develop immediately after the event.
For servicemen and women, witnessing combat and war atrocities could cause severe PTSD symptoms to develop over time.
It’s not easy to overcome trauma on your own. Fortunately, you’re not alone. BetterHelp can connect you with hundreds of licensed therapists who specialize in helping patients overcome trauma. For more information on what events cause trauma and possible treatments, visit the link below: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/events-that-can-cause-trauma-and-treatments-that-can-help-emdr-therapy/.
When talking about trauma, it’s helpful to know how it’s defined and what exactly happens in the brain.
What is Trauma?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines trauma as “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.”
There are many examples of stressful situations that result in trauma. Abusive relationships, surviving a natural disaster, losing a loved one, witnessing death or violence, even living through a deadly illness can be considered traumatic events, even though they don’t fit the definition of trauma.
Studies show that individuals with genetic predispositions to psychological disorders such as schizophrenia can develop PTSD after living through a traumatic event.
Biological factors are also another factor to consider. Suppose a person grows up in an area with armed conflict and is exposed to the risk of death daily. They may initially develop resilience to these symptoms but may be more prone to PTSD if confronted with any associated stimuli, like fireworks.
The Effect of Trauma on the Brain
Our brain has a survival mechanism called “fight or flight” that activates when faced with potentially dangerous events. Our adrenal glands release adrenaline to confront or flee from a threat, which gives us speed and power boost. We’re more aware of our surroundings and can act quickly to avoid danger. Once we’re clear from danger, our brain releases the hormone cortisol to regulate our body’s functions and recover from the burst of adrenaline.
When a person experiences a traumatic event, their “fight or “flight” mechanism gets turned on and stays activated. The event doesn’t get resolved and continues to flood the body with adrenaline. This adrenaline flooding can develop into anxiety and other stress-based disorders that can severely detriment the brain.
Triggers in the environment can also account for these symptoms. For example, a child that lived through a civil war may experience symptoms of PTSD as an adult should they hear fireworks. They would attribute the sound to gunshots, and the brain will interpret the sound as a trigger for the memory of the war.
Therapies for Trauma
Therapies exist to treat symptoms of PTSD without the use of prescription drugs or prolonged treatment.
EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a form of therapy that dampens PTSD symptoms and helps patients confront their traumatic memories in a safe environment.
EMDR Therapy believes that trauma is the result of unprocessed memories. Through therapy, therapists guide patients to process these memories adequately. Over time, patients will notice a change in their symptoms and change the script their mind wrote about their traumatic events, so the narrative does not repeat in future circumstances.
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on a patient’s behavior and thought patterns to improve living standards.
CBT Therapy focuses on the present and how a patient perceives the world. Therapists examine behavior and thoughts to identify self-destructive patterns and thought processes. CBT can benefit people with depression, anxiety, or other stress-related symptoms.
Psychodynamic psychology is a form of therapy that focuses on emotion, unlike CBT, which focuses on behavior and thoughts.
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on a patient’s emotional awareness. Therapists focus on guiding a patient to identify patterns and emotional blind spots, asking questions along the way to highlight recurring patterns or topics they may be avoiding. This type of therapy is more collaborative and gives more control back to the patient.
Living with trauma can change how we see the world. Sometimes, people seek an escape from their symptoms and find drugs or other substances. Substance abuse is a slippery slope and can worsen symptoms or develop severe side effects.
If you’ve experienced symptoms of PTSD or other stress-related disorders, reach out to a licensed therapist today.
It may be difficult, but there is hope.
Prioritize yourself today.